Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men, but even more common within African American men. For every 100,000 African-American men in North Carolina, 216 per year will develop prostate cancer, and 48 will die of the disease, according to the N.C. Central Cancer Registry.
A recent series of articles in the News & Observer examines prostate cancer deaths in North Carolina.
Steven Patierno, PhD, professor of medicine (Medical Oncology) and deputy director of the Duke Cancer Institute, talked with the News & Observer about his research on genetic aspect of the disparity in prostate cancer and controversial screening guidelines. In April, Governor Pat McCrory appointed Dr. Patierno to the NC Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control.
“We have identified some of those molecular pathways that are driving the aggressiveness of prostate cancer in African-Americans,” Patierno said.
“It turns out that by using the difference between blacks and whites, it becomes a surrogate for tumor aggressiveness in general, and we’ve been able to determine [that] some of those pathways are what drive tumor aggressiveness in general, regardless of race, and we have found pathways that open up possibilities for prevention, and prevention trials, particularly among African-Americans,” he said.
Patierno also commented on the controversial prostate cancer screening guidelines by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which announced three years ago that there was a lack of evidence for prostate cancer screening. He said the guidelines did not take in consideration that “prostate cancer's slow-growing.”
“That has almost categorically now been shown to be incorrect. Those analyses were based on evaluation of studies that only followed men for a relatively short period of time after the screening. ... They were modeled after the time course that you typically see for cancers like breast and colorectal cancer ... and didn’t take into account the indolent, slow-growing nature of prostate cancer,” said Patierno.