Dr. Momen-Haravi in a lab

Momen-Heravi Identifies Causes of Racial Disparities in Head and Neck Cancers

April 14, 2023

April is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month

In a recently published study, Fatemeh Momen-Heravi, DDS, MPH, PhD, MS, an associate professor at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and director of the head and neck cancer research group at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, has identified a number of genomic alterations and molecular signatures in head and neck cancers (HNC) that may explain the disparities in screening, detection, treatment, and survival between racial groups.

Approximately 630,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with cancers of the oral cavity, throat nose and sinuses each year, resulting in more than 350,000 deaths. Momen-Heravi’s research, which was funded in part by the prestigious AACR -The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research “Science of the Patient” grant, focused on the molecular features of HNC tumors, specifically in patients with African ancestry. The data revealed that in patients of African ancestry there is a genetic pathway that may explain the development of more aggressive HNC tumors.

Momen-Heravi said that the findings are significant because they will inform a more personalized approach to diagnosis and treatment of these types of cancers in minority populations. “Our findings have the potential to help develop more individualized and targeted screening, diagnostic, and treatment modalities to improve health outcomes for Black patients with head and neck cancer," she said. She noted that receiving the “Science of the Patient” grant enabled her team to “to conduct more comprehensive studies into the molecular basis and genomics of head and neck cancer disparities in Black populations.”

Additionally, she said, the award enabled the team to “extend the impact” of the research and has provided the resources for new research and collaboration.

You can read more about Dr. Momen-Heravi’s research on the American Association for Cancer Research website.