USC has been awarded a $16 million federal grant with two Florida universities to study cancer health disparities among racial and ethnic groups.

The National Cancer Institute issued the five-year grant to launch a cancer health equity center at USC, the University of Florida and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, a historically black college.

The bicoastal center will research cancer health disparities, train minority scientists and perform community outreach. It will also look at the genetics of cancer health disparities among highly diverse communities in Florida and Southern California.

“It is a rare opportunity to bring together world-class science and community engagement in a way that will also develop the next generation of scientists who come from the communities we serve,” said Dr. Laura Mosqueda, dean of the Keck School of Medicine at USC, in a statement.

At USC, the new Florida-California Cancer Research, Education and Engagement Health Equity Center will be led by John Carpten, professor and chair of USC Translational Genomics, and Mariana Stern, professor of preventive medicine and urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The disparity in cancer health between whites, African-Americans and Latinos is stark, USC researchers say.

While the death rate from all cancers is 25 percent higher for blacks than whites, Latinos have the highest rates of cancers associated with infection, such as liver, stomach and cervical cancers.

“I’m proud that we will be helping lead the way nationally toward advancing cancer health equity,” Carpten said, in a statement. “I am very committed to understanding why certain diseases and disorders exact heavier burdens on underrepresented populations.”

Health business reporter Dana Bartholomew can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @_DanaBart.

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