Grant Awarded to Study Prostate Cancer Racial Disparities
The Prostate Cancer Foundation is funding a two-year, $600,000 Special Challenge Award for a new collaborative research project involving Cleveland Clinic, the National Cancer Institute, the University of Chicago and Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University.
“African-American men have a two-fold higher mortality rate from prostate cancer than European-Americans,” says Eric Klein, MD, Chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute and a principal investigator on the grant. “The goal of our research is to further investigate the biology behind the obvious aggressive behavior of prostate tumors in African-American men in the hopes of better understanding it and identifying new management and treatment options.”
Interferon-Related Proteins to Blame?
Research shows that the prostate tumors of African-American men are much more likely to express a set of interferon-related proteins that may hamper traditional cancer treatments.
Interferons are a crucial component of the body’s beneficial immune response to infections. When exposed to viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents, the body produces interferons, which trigger the production of hundreds of potent antiviral proteins. Scientists, however, have found that a subset of approximately 25 of these proteins – referred to as the interferon-related DNA damage resistance signatures (IRDS) – actually inhibit the effectiveness of traditional chemotherapy or radiation in certain tumors, including prostate cancer. But why the IRDS is more prevalent in African-American men isn’t clear.
“We don't know whether the tumors themselves or tumor-associated immune cells are the primary sources of the interferon, which enables the cancer cells to resist therapy. We also don’t know how such resistance is achieved in detail,” says George Stark, PhD, Distinguished Scientist in the Department of Molecular Genetics in Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute and a principal investigator on the grant. “These questions are being actively investigated in our laboratories.”
Research Funds Lacking
Dr. Stark and his colleagues are grateful to the Prostate Cancer Foundation for their funding. Without such support, it’s impossible to move forward.
“Now that government funding for research has been reduced and is not likely to recover anytime soon, these sources of support have become ever more important,” he says. “It’s a great pity that we’re seeing a reduction in government funding in the face of very exciting new developments in medical research that have the potential to spur great advances in healthcare.”