Skip to main content
researchers in lab
researchers in lab

Community Outreach and Engagement Program

Our Community Outreach and Engagement program is taking steps to reduce the cancer burden in South Texas by bringing care advances to more of the people we serve. It also ensures our research priorities align with the unique ways that cancer affects our community.

Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, is the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated program in Central and South Texas. We are among an elite group of centers advancing cancer care through focused research programs.

Community Outreach and Engagement extends the reach of our research and elevates the level of cancer care throughout South Texas. We also address health disparities by improving cancer awareness and access to screenings, care and clinical trials for eligible patients.

About the cancer burden and health disparities in South Texas

Unique characteristics of our community include:

  • Demographics: Our service area is predominantly Hispanic. Ours is one of the few NCI centers serving a population where the majority of residents are minorities.
  • Cancer incidence: South Texans experience unusually high rates of certain cancers. This region’s liver and cervical cancer incidences exceed national rates by a large margin.
  • Access: For many people, health education and care services are not easily accessible. Of the 38 counties in our service area, 25 are rural. Twenty-four of these rural counties were designated as primary care health shortage areas by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2012.
  • Clinical trial participation: Historically, participation rates by minority populations are low. Innovative care options that may only be available through trials are out of reach for many of the people who may benefit from them.

Our community outreach and engagement activities

Community outreach and engagement distinguish centers such as ours that receive NCI designation.

Our outreach and engagement initiatives address:

Research priorities

We adjust our research agenda to align with the community’s greatest care needs. For example, breast cancer is often detected at a younger age in Hispanic women. Hispanic women also have a higher prevalence of aggressive triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

Our researchers are exploring new care options using antidepressants as part of TNBC treatment. We have completed early studies demonstrating how an approved antidepressant inhibits the growth and spread of TNBC. Learn more about our Experimental and Developmental Therapeutics program.

Health policy and modifiable risk factors for lung cancer

We played a key role in limiting tobacco sales to teenagers and young adults to address the high incidence of lung cancer across all races and ethnicities. A 2018 ordinance, San Antonio Tobacco 21, raises the minimum age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21 years old.

We also piloted Quitxt, a text message-based smoking cessation program, in primary care practices. Messages in English and Spanish gave participants helpful recommendations on how to quit smoking. Initial results have been positive, and we’re looking to expand the program to more patients.

Find out more about Quitxt. Or view Quitxt program information in Spanish.

Liver cancer in rural and underserved communities

We are addressing the high incidence of liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC) and its precursor, hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. In partnership with UT Southwestern Medical Center and area health education centers (AHECs), we are raising awareness through the Screen, Treat, or Prevent (STOP) HCC program.

STOP HCC provides educational programming to clinicians and clinic staff about preventing HCV and HCC. Primary care practices serving low-income populations now screen for and manage chronic HCV infection in at-risk populations.

Minority participation in clinical trials

Since 2012, Mays Cancer Center has been taking steps to increase the representation of minorities in clinical trials. Our long-standing Clinical Trials Minority Accrual Committee develops strategies to address this issue.

Recent efforts include adding bilingual Spanish clinical trial coordinators to care teams and educating physicians to raise awareness. We have seen marked improvements in minority accrual, specifically within the Hispanic population.

Get more information about cancer clinical trials and research.