In the U.S., 1 in 8 men in their lifetime will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. But the disease does not affect all men equally. 1 in 6 Black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and they are more than 2 times as likely to die from it. In recent years, Hispanic men were less likely to receive PSA screening vs non-Hispanic white men. American Indian/Alaskan Native patients are more likely to be diagnosed with distant-stage prostate cancer, and are less likely to be alive 5 years after diagnosis, vs white men.
The reasons for health disparities are complex and must be considered at many levels, including genes and other biological factors, screening, treatment, health care access, and prevention. Examples of PCF-funded projects underway across this spectrum include:
- Salma Kaochar, PhD, at Baylor College of Medicine, is looking at specific factors that affect how genes are turned on and off in African American prostate cancer, and that might be new targets for treatments.
- Philanthropist Robert F. Smith has generously supported PCF work in health care disparities including research into a more precise risk test to help men assess their lifetime risk of prostate cancer, and the largest ever donation dedicated to advancing research for African American men in Chicago. Thanks to this and other commitments, the PCF-VA partnership is at the forefront of advancing disparities research in prostate cancer.
- Leanne Woods-Burnham, PhD at City of Hope is examining prostate tissue from a racially diverse selection of patients with prostate cancer to understand the role of the HER2 gene in prostate cancer and potential link to West African ancestry. The results may guide the design of clinical trials testing new treatments that target this gene.
- Hala Borno, MD, at UCSF is developing and testing methods to improve recruitment of a diverse group of men with advanced prostate cancer into clinical trials. The results will be used expand to access to clinical trials among racial and ethnic minorities.
- Research by Anna Plym, PhD, at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden aims to find out how men at high risk of prostate cancer can lower their risk of the most deadly forms of the disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle. The study will use data from racially diverse groups of patients, so the results may, ideally, be applied across a broader range of men at high risk.
These are just a few of the projects that are active right now. PCF has a long history of funding research and taking action to address this issue.
- PCF has been investigating health disparity in prostate cancer since 1995.
- PCF has funded 48 awards in this area for a total of over $30 million.
- PCF helped to secure $27 million in initial investment for the PCF-NIH RESPOND initiative to study why African American men are more likely to be diagnosed with and die from prostate cancer, related to genetic, social, and other factors.
- Our PCF-VA network is serving as a model for American health care on ways to combat prostate cancer disparities and improve care for Veterans.
PCF is committed 24×7 to equal justice before the law for everyone in society, and in so far as medical research can move the needle on repairing health disparity in prostate cancer, it is our duty to do it.