There are more than 3 million men in the U.S. living with prostate cancer, and, on average, 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed in their lifetime. However, there are significant racial disparities, particularly for Black men. Compared to men of other ethnicities, Black men are about 75% more likely to develop prostate cancer and more than twice as likely to die of it. Research indicates a number of disparities for Black men including longer wait times between diagnosis and treatment, and being less likely to receive definitive treatment.
At the Prostate Cancer Foundation, we’ve been investing in research that targets these disparities for over 20 years.
We’ve awarded millions of dollars to scientists across the US whose research not only explores how and why prostate cancer behaves differently in Black men, but also tests possible solutions. Some of our promising young investigators include:
Brandon Mahal, MD now at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami. Dr. Mahal’s research project will analyze data on more than 15,000 men of African descent with prostate cancer to uncover factors associated with poor prognosis. This information will be used to develop more accurate prediction tools, and will improve treatment selection and outcomes for African American men with prostate cancer.
Salma Kaochar, PhD at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Kaochar 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.
Rhonda Bitting, MD of Duke University. Dr. Bitting will investigate genetic differences between African American and Caucasian prostate cancer in order to better understand biologic contributors to poorer outcomes in African American patients. This project will also determine whether genes can be used to predict response to a specific therapy (abiraterone) and improve treatment selection for patients.
Hala Borno, MD, at UCSF. Dr. Borno 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, including Black men.
In 2018, PCF partnered in launching the Robert Frederick Smith Center of Precision Oncology in Chicago to aid veterans in the metropolitan area and beyond who are battling prostate cancer. With the generous support of Robert F. Smith, PCF is able to prioritize research proposals with the highest potential benefit to veterans, with a focus on Black men in the near term.
Additionally, the Smith Polygenic Risk Test for prostate cancer is being developed to look across hundreds of genes related to prostate cancer risk, someday allowing doctors to predict how likely it is that any man may get prostate cancer in his lifetime. This will be especially important for Black men, to inform a precision screening strategy at earlier ages for men a higher risk.
For patients: What you can do
If you’re a Black man with prostate cancer, you, too, can participate in research that aims to uncover how genetic and environmental factors contribute to disease progression. PCF, along with the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health, is supporting the RESPOND study, which will help the cancer community understand and address disparities for African American men and their families. Note that this is not a treatment study; your information will be stored securely and analyzed anonymously as part of a large data set. To learn more, visit respondstudy.org.
For all men (and those who care about them)
Take the next steps towards improving your health. Explore below to learn more about what YOU can do to prevent prostate cancer.