With the help of a $750,000 grant from biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is helping launch a new program to increase breast cancer screening rates in Latinas. The goal is advancing health equity.

“We need to close the gap in breast cancer care,” said Laura Fejerman, asso ciate director of the cancer center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement (COE).

Laura Fejerman and (on the right) Luis Carvajal-Carmona

Fejerman also co-leads the cancer center’s Women’s Cancer Care and Research program (WeCARE). The program is teaming up with The Latino Cancer Institute and its founder Ysabel Duron to launch a new breast cancer outreach program at two Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in California, WellSpace in Sacramento and San Ysidro Health in San Diego.

Duron has been working for many years to effect policy changes around barriers to cancer prevention and care in Latinas. She is co-principal investi gator of the grant program along with Fejerman. Julie Dang, COE executive director, is co-investigator and Alyssa Reed will serve as the UC Davis program manager.

“Low-income Latinas are getting left behind because they are not aware of the role genes play in breast cancer,” Fejerman said. “The answer is to inte grate health educators, who speak Spanish and are community members, to educate Latinas and help them navi gate breast cancer screening and care, if cancer is diagnosed.”

These lay health workers, empow ered and trusted to connect community members with information and resources, are called promotores de salud. They are part of the cancer center’s new program called Tu Historia Cuenta (your story matters). The new funding from Gilead will expand the program by hiring promo toras as staff at the FQHC nonprofit clinics that care for medically underserved.

“What’s exciting is that this commu nity-clinic-academic partnership will lay the groundwork for a model to scale up across the state,” Fejerman said.

The goal is to increase the number of Spanish-speaking patients screened for breast cancer, ultimately reducing the rate of advanced diagnoses among Latinas and improving survival.