Dr. Damali Martin, who’s researched breast cancer, is working on the largest coordinated research effort to study factors associated with aggressive prostate cancer in African- American men. Photo by Bill Branson NIH

By Clint Confehr

A $26.5 million study — it’s to examine genetic and environmental factors associated with aggressive prostate cancer in African American men — has been announced by experts with national health groups.

During their announcement, the experts made a public appeal to African American men who are diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer; asking them to consider participating in the study. They need 10,000 men for comparisons.

Possible associations between aggressive prostate cancer and exposure to neighborhood or environmental social stressors, including “discrimination, early life adversity and segregation,” are to be examined, according to Dr. Damali Martin, program director, National Cancer Institute (NCI), Shady Grove Campus, Rockville, Md.

“Research on Prostate Cancer in Men of African Ancestry: Defining the Roles of Genetics, Tumor Markers, and Social Stress” is the largest coordinated effort to study biological and non-biological factors associated with aggressive prostate cancer in African-American men, according to the NCI.

African American men suffering prostate cancer who are interested in participating are encouraged to visit www.respondstudy.org for more information.

NCI funding is from the 21st Century Cures Cancer Moonshot Initiative as authorized by

Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, oversees a $281
million budget for research, training, public education, and
information distribution to improve minority health and
reduce health disparities. Photo by Ernie Branson NIH

Congress and signed into law by President Obama during December 2016. Other funds are from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and the Prostate Cancer Foundation in Santa Monica, Calif.

“Understanding why African-American men are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer than men of other racial and ethnic groups is a critical, unanswered question in cancer disparities research,” said NCI Director Ned Sharpless, M.D. “This large, collaborative study can help the cancer research community better understand and address these disparities.”

African-American men have about a 15 percent chance of developing prostate cancer in their lifetimes, compared to about a 10 percent chance for white men, and African-American men are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive disease, NCI reports. Furthermore, the risk of dying from prostate cancer for African-American men is about 4 percent compared to about 2 percent for white men.

“This study, which is combining state-of-the-art molecular approaches with social and environmental science, will help unravel the complex interactions of biological, behavioral, and environmental factors that contribute to excess prostate cancer burden and poorer outcomes in African-American men, allowing development of tailored approaches for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in this population,” said Dr. Eliseo Pérez-Stable, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Dr. Pérez-Stable was Meharry Medical College’s 141st Fall Convocation speaker. His Oct. 12, 2016 address to graduates may be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWUjuTu7isk.

Investigators plan to study 10,000 African-American men with prostate cancer. This study builds on years of collaborative research involving investigators who are part of the African Ancestry Prostate Cancer consortium. These investigators will contribute additional information and samples from 10,000 African-American men with prostate cancer, men who’ve participated in previous studies.

The study is being led by Christopher Haiman, Sc.D., of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, in collaboration with John Carpten, Ph.D., Ann Hamilton, Ph.D., and David Conti, Ph.D., also of USC; Scarlett Gomez, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco; Tamara Lotan, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore; and Franklin Huang, M.D., Ph.D., of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...