What we’ve been able to create and optimize — thanks to help from the Stuart Scott Fund — is a user-friendly device that can attach to a cell phone to immediately analyze if a small needle biopsy contains cancer, and if so, what type of cancer it is. – Dr. Cesar Castro

ESPN is in the midst of the 10th annual Jimmy V Week, an initiative that extends across the network’s platforms and programs to help raise funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

In the past 10 years, V Week has raised $13.7 million for the V Foundation, contributing the $45 million ESPN has raised for the V since tracking began in 2003.

But how is that funding used and what impact is it making?

Front Row sat down with Dr. Cesar Castro, who is Director, Cancer Program, Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Systems Biology in Boston and an assistant professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Castro is breaking new ground in cancer research thanks in part to a grant from the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation, which encourages cutting-edge research for African-Americans, Hispanics and other minority populations suffering from cancer.

How have you used the grant from the V Foundation?
Put simply, we’re empowering underserved communities to be able to detect cancer more easily through the use of mobile devices. Oftentimes in low- income areas domestically and abroad, there are a limited number of pathologists to promptly diagnose cancer, and resources may not be available to properly collect samples and pinpoint the exact type of cancer.

What we’ve been able to create and optimize — thanks to help from the Stuart Scott Fund — is a user-friendly device that can attach to a cell phone to immediately analyze if a small needle biopsy contains cancer, and if so, what type of cancer it is. Results are triaged in real time rather than the 3-7 days it typically takes a pathologist to read the results even in resource-rich settings, helping people get the care they need much sooner. Timing is everything in the cancer field.

Incremental advances rarely move the needle in cancer research. And I was a big fan of Stuart Scott the sportscaster and cancer research advocate, so to receive a grant named in his honor is especially meaningful. – Castro on the importance of the multiyear Stuart Scott Fund grant

How will this change cancer detection in underserved communities?
This device can be easily used by nurses and other lay people who are trained in the technology and doesn’t require an MD to administer the test. This could open broader access to cancer diagnostics, including testing from mobile units. This type of work seeks to level the playing field and address inequities in cancer care.

We’ve been able to pilot the technology in Botswana, which has gone really well, and hope to bring it to the U.S. soon.

Why are the V Foundation grants so important?
This grant is multiyear, allowing us to take more risk which is really critical in cancer research. You often learn more from negative outcomes than positive, so to be able to have flexibility in your research is really important. Incremental advances rarely move the needle in cancer research. And I was a big fan of Stuart Scott the sportscaster and cancer research advocate, so to receive a grant named in his honor is especially meaningful.

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