Research News

Henry’s Groceries for Health

HFHS researchers, Alex Plum (Population Health), Dr. Christine Joseph (Public Health Sciences), and Dr. Stacy Leatherwood (Pediatrics), in partnership with Gleaners Community Food Bank, have been awarded funding by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to try to enhance and expand “Henry’s Groceries”, a pilot program to evaluate food supplementation as a means to address food insecurity in adult patients. Henry’s Groceries will now deliver to children in need. 

Food insecurity (limited or uncertain access to adequate nutritious food with either disrupted or reduced eating) affects an average of 48% of households in Detroit, and 19% of Detroit children are enrolled in WIC (Detroit Health Department, 2017). Children with food insecurity experience illnesses more often, incur physical and cognitive developmental delays, perform more poorly academically and behaviorally in school, and contribute to a less competitive workforce when they grow up. 
The researchers are trying to see if delivering food kits along with recipes and education will decrease trips to the doctor and missing school as well as increase healthy behaviors like eating more fruits and veggies.  In a previous study on adults, the same researchers showed that recipients of Henry’s Groceries had a significant reduction in emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Also part of this program, is to train and equip HFHS pediatric clinical staff, medical assistants, nurses, and advance practice providers to look for food insecurity in patients and connect them with food resources.  

If successful in improving outcomes, this program would be expanded to all HFHS pediatric medical centers and HFHS would share their best practices with other health systems and community-based food aggregators and food banks. 

Henry’s Groceries has received awards from America’s Essential Hospitals and American Medical Group Association for its innovative and novel approach to closing disparities in healthy food access while hitting the triple bottom line.

Racial Differences Found in Genes for Breast and Prostate Cancers

Rates of aggressive breast and prostate cancer are higher among African Americans than European Americans. Somatic copy number alterations (SCNAs—sections of duplicated or missing DNA in many types of tumor) are associated with cancer recurrence and survival, but studies of SNCAs have been largely confined to European-derived populations. 

HFHS PHS scientists Chen et al have performed a novel study that uses tumor mutation data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) to investigate whether racial differences in the type or size of SCNAs help to explain racial differences in the presentation and outcomes of breast and prostate cancer, and whether there were changes common to these two types of tumor that were also present in endometrial and ovarian cancer. 

After identifying 58 breast cancer and 78 prostate cancer SNCAs that differed by race, the research team narrowed down six SNCAs that were common to both types of cancer. For both breast and prostate cancer, tumor tissue from African Americans had a higher proportion of the genome affected (“SNCA burden”). Similar results were found in two SNCAs in endometrial and ovarian cancer. 

Within these six race-differentiated SCNAs shared by both breast and prostate tumors, the team identified 15 mRNA transcripts that differed by race and copy number in both tumor types, and these included known cancer genes.

The new method used by Chen et al considered quantitative measures across each SCNA for each tumor, which not only captures differences in SCNA frequency but also incorporates the alteration magnitude. This may explain why they found racial differences that may underlie tumor aggressiveness and resistance to treatment not previously identified in previous studies. 

Chen et al’s findings suggest that African American’s may be more likely to have tumor genomes that are susceptible to patterns of SCNAs that underlie a more aggressive phenotype. This information may be useful for deciding whether adjuvant treatment is needed after surgery in the subset of patients with SCNAs associated with worse outcomes, ultimately improving care for African American patients. 


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