Study To Evaluate Risk Factors For Breast And Prostate Cancers Continues

Study To Evaluate Risk Factors For Breast And Prostate Cancers Continues

While it is known that prostate cancer affects Black men at a higher rate than other populations, the exact cause is unknown.

Genetics has long been posited as a major factor, and according to Dr. Firas Abdollah, the three major causes are genetics, low enrollment in clinical trials, and a lack of access to quality care. Abdollah, a urologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said in a post on the hospital’s site: “However, Black men are usually not well represented in clinical trials. Recruitment is low, so the results of a prostate cancer clinical trial don’t necessarily apply to Black men if they weren’t represented in the clinical trial.”

In 2022, a study dedicated to understanding the genetic drivers of breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers was awarded a $1.65 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. Sophia George and Camille Ragin lead the research project, seeking participants from 9 countries, including the United States.

The study is exclusive to Black patients who are aged 18-85 with a confirmed pathological cancer diagnosis at any stage. The study claims to be able to control for patients who have a history of cancer diagnosis. George was named the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s first associate director of diversity, equity, and inclusion in 2022. Her research focuses on the study of breast and gynecological cancers among women of the African diaspora and Africa. Ragin was named to the same post at the Fox Chase Center, a hospital affiliated with the University of Temple in the same year. Like George, Ragin’s area of research is concerned with cancer disparities affecting Black populations. Ragin is also the founder of the African-Caribbean Cancer Consortium, an organization dedicated to increasing the study of various risk and outcome factors for people of African descent.

The study is currently in year one of an estimated two-year time frame, it is designed to measure how these cancers mutate in Black patients and one of the study’s major collaborators is Pfizer. In recent years, there has been an increased effort to diversify cancer research, spearheaded by the American Association for Cancer Research. During their annual meeting for 2023, they led sessions focused on cancer disparities featuring an examination of how stress coupled with systemic racism and genetic predisposition can serve to indicate an increased risk of cancer as well as adverse health outcomes. The organization also publishes a yearly report analyzing cancer disparities and progress made on that front as well as highlighting the devastating impact they have on those they affect.

George and Ragin’s study is sorely needed and disparities reach back as far as the 1960s. An academic paper entitled Enrollment Matters: The Reality of Disparity and Pursuit of Equity in Clinical Trials quotes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1966 speech to the Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights. This speech essentially laid out the minister’s case that matters of health are where he felt as though the inhuman treatment of Black people existed at its absolute worst. That sentiment is felt in today’s lack of data on why and how many chronic diseases, such as breast and prostate cancers, affect Black people differently than they affect people of other ethnicities. More studies such as this one will undoubtedly help the medical community in any attempts to improve the outcomes for Black or people of African descent in the treatment of these diseases.