The Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) announced on May 28, 2020 that Raymond Mailhot Vega, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute, was named a recipient of ASCO’s prestigious Conquer Cancer Global Oncology Foundation Young Investigator Award.
The award, a one-year grant of $50,000 given annually to promising investigators, encourages and promotes quality research in clinical oncology. Dr. Mailhot Vega (left) was recognized at the Conquer Cancer Grants and Award Ceremony on Friday, May 29, and joined other UF radiation oncologists who presented their research at the annual ASCO conference, held virtually this year from May 29-31, 2020.
“We are extremely proud of Dr. Mailhot Vega’s achievement and the way in which his research here at the University of Florida will have a global impact in the fight against cancer,” said Paul Okunieff, MD, Professor and Chair of the UF Department of Radiation Oncology.
Conquer Cancer dedicated funding in several areas in 2020, including brain cancer, kidney cancer, pediatric cancer, sarcoma, and practice management. Dr . Mailhot Vega’s project seeks to address disparities in pediatric cancer outcomes through a targeted educational program for radiation oncologists in Mexico.
The total incidence of childhood cancer in Mexico outpaces its incidence North and South America. In fact, in Mexico, cancer is the second-most common cause of death among children between 4 and 15 years old. In most developed countries, proper diagnosis and treatment lead to 80% survival; but, in low- and middle-income countries like Mexico, survival can be between 5% and 60%.
“Managing pediatric cancer in Latin America is complex and costly, and a lack of expertise has been cited as a possible cause for outcome disparities,” said Dr. Mailhot Vega. “With the existing gap in radiation oncology capacity and the rising incidence of cancer, there is now a greater demand for more modern radiotherapy facilities and equipment along with trained health-care professionals.”
Dr. Mailhot Vega’s project will survey pediatric radiation oncologists to determine treatment patterns, self-reported needs, and patient-related concerns, and will measure the changes in pediatric radiotherapy knowledge before and after an educational treatment planning activity.
Dr. Mailhot Vega, a Honduran-American passionate about improving cancer outcomes in minority populations in the U.S., has maintained a global focus on cancer care in Latin America. His specialties include pediatric and breast cancers and he leads his department’s hematology service. His research evaluating the comparative effectiveness of proton therapy has been published in journals like Cancer and the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics. He serves on the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO)’s Committee for Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and has served as a Domestic Ambassador for ASTRO since 2015, a role which allowed him to lead previous educational workshops in Latin America.
His research efforts in global health, published in journals like Cancer and Brachytherapy, have evaluated the downstream effects to children of maternal mortality from breast and cervical cancer, didactic experiences in Latin American radiotherapy education, and the optimization of gynecologic brachytherapy selection in Latin America. He was a 2019 finalist for the University of Florida Junior Faculty International Educator of the Year award.