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Another Message to Black Men - #2: RESPOND

Good day. Here is another article in this series called Another Message to Black Men, discussing and offering solutions for preventing the development of prostate cancer. In this article, I am going to mention a rather large, nationwide research study on prostate cancer called RESPOND. So, what is RESPOND? I’m glad you asked.

What is RESPOND?

This study called the Research on Prostate Cancer in Men of African Ancestry: Defining the Roles of Genetics, Tumor Markers, and Social Stress (aka, RESPOND). This research received over $26 million dollars of funding in 2018. The overall goal of this study is to try to look at the environmental issues and genetic factors that lead to the development of aggressive prostate cancer in African-American men, where this same form of aggressive prostate cancer is absent in other men.1

According to Ned Sharpless, the director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the goal of this research is to understand “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.” He continued, “This large, collaborative study can help the cancer research community better understand and address these disparities.”1

Treatment is not one-size-fits-all

African-American men have a 15% chance of developing prostate cancer over the course of their lives, compared to a 10% chance of development in white men. Further, about 4% of African-American men will die from prostate cancer, compared to 2% of white men.1 The end goal of the RESPOND study is to identify the social and biological reasons for this disparity and develop tailored interventions for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. This is good to finally hear. In my opinion, prevention and treatment cannot be a one-size-fits-all ideal, where the people affected by prostate cancer have too many variables in their history.

Finding answers to important questions

What I think makes this research interesting is what they are looking at it in relation to prostate cancer and its development in an aggressive form. For example, the study is taking into consideration exposure to neighborhood/environmental issues such as discrimination, early-life adversity, and segregation. In addition, the RESPOND study will also look at DNA and tumor samples to look at the genetics related to the development of aggressive prostate cancer.

“Previous research on prostate cancer disparities has investigated social and genetic factors separately, but we know these components interact with each other to contribute to disparities,” says Dr. Martin, the director of epidemiology and genomics at NCI. He added, “The ability to integrate genetic and environmental factors, including individual, neighborhood, and societal factors, into one large study will enable us to have a better understanding of how all of these factors contribute to the aggressiveness of prostate cancer.”1

Learn more about getting involved

Finally, as of August 2019, the study is still enrolling participants. If you are interested, you can read more about the study on the Respond Study's website.

Dr. Nick M.

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