National Cancer Institute-Funded Social Risk Research in Cancer Care Delivery: Opportunities for Future Research

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2022 Dec 8;114(12):1628-1635. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djac171.


Background: Cancer patients and survivors with food insecurity, housing instability, and transportation-related barriers face challenges in access and utilization of quality cancer care thereby adversely impacting their health outcomes. This portfolio analysis synthesized and described National Cancer Institute (NCI)-supported social risk research focused on assessing food insecurity, housing instability, and transportation-related barriers among individuals diagnosed with cancer.

Methods: We conducted a query using the National Institutes of Health iSearch tool to identify NCI-awarded extramural research and training grants (2010-2022). Grant abstracts, specific aims, and research strategies were coded for research characteristics, study population, and outcomes.

Results: Of the 30 grants included in this analysis, most assessed transportation-related barriers as patient-level social needs. Grants focused on community-level social risks, food insecurity, and housing instability were largely absent. Most grants included activities that identified the presence of social risks and/or needs (n = 24), connected patients to social care resources (n = 10), and engaged community members or organizations to inform the research study (n = 9). Of the grants, 18 focused on a single type of cancer, primarily breast cancer, and more than half focused on the treatment and survivorship phases.

Conclusions: In the last decade, there has been limited NCI-funded social risk research grants focused on food insecurity and housing instability. Findings highlight opportunities for future cancer care delivery research, including community and health system-level approaches that integrate social and clinical care to address social risks and social needs. Such efforts can help improve outcomes of populations that experience cancer health and health-care disparities.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research*
  • Financing, Organized
  • Humans
  • National Cancer Institute (U.S.)
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • United States