GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) -- Doctors and researchers at the University of North Dakota are on the front lines of the fight against cancer.

Our Kenneth Chase explains how a $20 million dollar grant is helping them take a different approach in the search for a cure.

"Larger than anything we've ever seen in the biomedical sciences in this area,” Dr. Marc Basson, of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said.

$20 million dollars in grants is the huge windfall researchers at the University of North Dakota say they need to fight cancer.

The plan is to address how cancer affects specific groups in North and South Dakota, and the disease's link to our environment.

"We do know that Native Americans have different death rates than white people for instance in North Dakota,” Basson said. “We know that some of the refugee populations have poor access to care and have poor outcomes with care. We know that there are environmental factors, radon for instance."

Dr. Marc Basson spent the last two years working on getting the money from the National Institutes of Health.

WDAY News has learned they could fund as many as 20 projects each year for the next five years with the money.

Instead of funding a single research project, the SMHS plans to pair doctors from companies like Altru and Sanford with researchers.

"We have the people who live in laboratories, or who live with their computers, or their data registries. We have the people that take care of patients. And they don't talk to each other well because they're different kind of people with very different kinds of training," Basson said.

The hope here is that the teams can work together to improve cancer care across state lines.

"This is more about culture change. This is about developing a whole network of people around the region who can individually work toward cures," Basson said.

A groundbreaking approach in the search for a cure.

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