stethoscope next to a prostate cancer ribbon

Racial disparities in prostate cancer explained at genomic level

Study finds substantially different biological characteristics in the tumors of African American men, pointing to a possible contribution to higher prostate cancer death rates
June 30, 2021

It’s been well documented that African American men are more likely to be diagnosed and ultimately die from prostate cancer. Although the cause of this disparity is often attributed to cultural and socioeconomic factors that lead to poorer health outcomes among African Americans, a researcher from Engineering Medicine (EnMed) at Texas A&M University recently found substantially different biological characteristics in the tumors of African American men that he believes also contribute to the disparity. He said the findings provide compelling evidence that clinical therapies and treatments should be tailored to patients based on their race.

“Racial disparities are quite prevalent in health care,” said Kamlesh Yadav, PhD, instructional associate professor for EnMed. “The findings from most of the existing onco-genetic studies are not directly extrapolatable for tumors in all the races. Analyzing genetic drivers of tumors in various races and the clinical outcomes associated with cancer therapy have immense clinical value as we can now tailor therapeutics that would work better for one race versus other.”

Yadav worked with a team of researchers at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City to conduct a retrospective analysis of 1,152 patients who had undergone surgery for prostate cancer. The review included 596 African American men and 556 men of European descent who had clinical-genomic information available to review. The researchers found that the tumors from men in two groups had distinctly different genomic profiles that would affect a health care professional’s plan for managing and treating the cancer.

Specifically, the researchers found that tumors in African American men had higher expression of genes related to immune response and inflammation, and lower expression of DNA mismatch repair genes. Yadav says this means that African American men would benefit more from radiation therapy and platinum-based chemotherapy than their European counterparts.

“Cancer is a genetic disease,” Yadav said. “This study has cemented the understanding that beyond socioeconomic differences, certain genetic factors drive racial disparities observed in prostate cancer. Understanding these genetic factors would benefit patients in getting personalized cancer treatment.”

Yadav said EnMed is poised to developing machine-learning algorithms that will help professionals deliver more personalized medicine.

“EnMed is at the cusp of not only making remarkable strides in helping uncover these differences but also with the help of our clinical partners, taking the findings to the clinic,” he said.

The study, “Comparative Analysis of 1,152 African-American and European-American Men with Prostate Cancer Identifies Distinct Genomic and Immunological Differences,” was recently published in Communications Biology and funded by the Deane Prostate Health and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

— Lindsey Hendrix

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