HNS&CS is Pleased to Announce the Launch of Project CHECKERS

Duke HNS&CS is pleased to announce the launch of Project CHECKERS (Community Head and NEck Cancer Knowledge, Engagement, Research and Screening). This project has been awarded funding as part of the Spring 2023 Duke Cancer Institute Pilot Projects RFA.

Primary PI: Trinitia Y. Cannon, MD

Co-PI: Nosayaba (Nosa) Osazuwa-Peters, BDS, PhD, MPH, CHES

Co-PI: Leda Scearce, MM, MS, CCC-SLP

This will be the Department’s inaugural community-based participatory research project, to our knowledge the first community-engaged head and neck cancer (HNC) screening and cancer prevention education project in North Carolina. Short-term, Project CHECKERS aims to establish a community partnership that fosters characterizing knowledge of HNC and risk factors in a disparate community in North Carolina through screenings. Long-term, Project CHECKERS will provide evidence of benefits of tailored HNC screening programs in improving prevention and early cancer detection and positively impact overall survival in high-risk individuals with limited access to care. The specific aims of this pilot project are to:

  • Aim 1: Develop a theory-grounded, community-engaged, culturally informed program of cancer screening and education focused on HNC prevention and early detection in the community.
  • Aim 2: Examine HNC awareness and perceived risk, using a theory-grounded framework, and explore self-efficacy to decrease alcohol use, increase tobacco cessation efforts and increase intent to receive HPV vaccinations among asymptomatic members of the community.

Project CHECKERS will address prevention and early detection of HNC in a population that has minimal access to healthcare. Our Community Partner is North Raleigh International Baptist Church (NRIBC), which ministers to a large immigrant community of mostly refugees from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. At least seven nationalities and multiple languages (including Swahili, Arabic, Farsi, and French) are represented in this community. Our goal is to provide education about HNC, promote awareness, and provide screenings for early identification of cancer.

This project represents a natural progression of our relationship, which began in the fall of 2022, when we were invited by NRIBC’s Pastor, Patrick Warutere, to participate in the church’s inaugural Health and Dignity for All Fair in Raleigh on December 10, 2022. We recruited nurses, medical students, and resident volunteers to provide HNC screenings for the event under the supervision of Dr. Trinitia Cannon. Our established relationship with NRIBC has enabled us to incorporate the community’s perspectives into the development of Project CHECKERS, drawing on the assets and expertise of the community members. We have had multiple meetings with Pastor Warutere’s team to develop this research plan and ensure that our goals and expectations are aligned and transparent. The NRIBC leadership has repeatedly expressed the importance of this type of screening event to the community.

This grant is also novel because of its use of a mixed-method design. In addition to collecting survey data regarding knowledge of HNC and risk factors, this proposed research will also involve stakeholder interviews and focus groups, eliciting a rich set of mixed-methods data that will expose current knowledge and risk perception gaps, and inform future interventions. To our knowledge, no other previous HNC screening events have included a mixed-methodology design.