New programme to close the gap for Black men with prostate cancer

Initial £875k investment in finding answers to higher risks of diagnosis and death

  • Black men twice as likely to get prostate cancer and 2.5 times more likely to die from it than White men
  • Five new projects launched today to specifically tackle this inequity
  • These projects are the first instalment of charity Prostate Cancer Research’s multi-year Health Inequities Programme, designed to tackle the lack of research into racial disparities, low health literacy, and the lack of representation in data in both the UK and US

Prostate Cancer Research has today announced the launch of their first round of research projects which will tackle the inequities in the diagnosis, treatment, and care of the UK’s most commonly diagnosed cancer. The charity has committed to funding at least three rounds of targeted projects which will explore solutions to the racial disparity within prostate cancer over the next three years, as part of a broader health inequities programme which also focuses on health literacy and data.

Black men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as White men, two and a half times more likely to die of the disease, and are likely to be diagnosed at a younger age. They may also be more likely to face delayed referrals, and be offered less aggressive cancer treatments even though they are more likely to have more aggressive tumours. “In light of how little was being done about this problem, in the face of the need, we took the decision to target our funding towards one of the areas it is most needed – closing the gaps between Black and White men,” Dr Naomi Elster, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer Research said.

The five projects announced today, funded to a total of £875,000 will take place at the University of East Anglia, University of Sunderland, University of Essex, University College London, and Harvard University. Cutting-edge biology techniques will be used to investigate reasons Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer, and potential ways to screen for men at high risk. Social science approaches will explore the barriers the Black community faces to early diagnosis, and NHS datasets will be mined to uncover whether people from different ethnic groups are more or less likely to stick with certain cancer treatments.

These projects form part of Prostate Cancer Research’s overarching Health Inequities Programme, which focuses on three key challenges of racial differences, low health literacy, and lack of representation in the data used to make decisions about new treatments and diagnostics.

Almost half of the UK’s population are thought to have low health literacy, which can lead to their needs being hidden, less effective communication with healthcare practitioners, and is linked to increased visits to A&E, increased treatment regret, and more risk of death. With the support of the National Lottery Community Fund, Prostate Cancer Research are developing The Infopool, a digital platform to empower people living with prostate cancer to make more informed decisions.

The charity also recently launched a pledge campaign, headed by Stephen Fry, inviting prostate cancer patients to voluntarily donate their data to a first-of-its-kind prostate cancer registry in the UK, which would capture patient experiences and use these to develop better treatments and diagnostics.

Quotes


This statement that 1 in 4 Black men, (compared to 1 and 8 White men) will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, is now an accepted statistic by which many statutory bodies and cancer service organisations refer to the disparity of this condition. That statement is often punctuated by, “we don’t know the cause.” Unfortunately, this unacceptable situation had continued for more than a decade It goes without saying that just as it took purposeful research to establish the first statement, the same is required to address the second.

The time for meaningful action is years overdue, so we are therefore pleased to say, that this kind of research initiative by PCR, accords with one of B’Me Against Cancer’s core activities, which is to ‘Encourage, collaborate, and support appropriate BME cancer research initiatives.

Lindsay Thompson
PCR Patient Panellist and COO of B’Me Against Cancer

My prostate cancer was treated with surgery and I was 58 years old. I was aware that it affected Black people a lot but not to such an extent.

It is important for all sorts of investigations to be taken as to assist us in early diagnosis of prostate cancer and to make Black men more aware that they are at such a high risk. It’s important to have an understanding genetically of what happens and have that research done.

It was very humbling to take part in the panel and also know that you were doing important work for the future of Black men and their prostate cancer by giving your views.

Dee Daly
PCR Patient Panellist

By the time my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, it had progressed into his spine. He died 3 years later.

This investment / Health Inequalities programme and planned projects over the next 3 years is excellent news for the Black community. Having open and honest conversations and together finding solutions to increase participation in medical research will contribute to ensuring that the needs of Black men are not left behind when it comes to the advancement of prostate cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment.

As founder of Can-Survive UK (www.can-survive.org.uk), we see first-hand the devastating impact that prostate cancer is having within Black men. It is encouraging to see that Prostate Cancer Research is leading the way in addressing the issues identified and working with strategic and community partners to develop and implement sustainable and meaningful solutions that will contribute to the eradication of the prostate cancer inequalities that currently exists for Black men.
From a professional and personal point of view, I am proud that Can-Survive UK is and that I am part of this significant initiative.

Marcella Turner
CEO of Can-Survive UK and PCR Trustee

We and others have worked to raise awareness that being Black comes with higher prostate cancer risks. But raising awareness isn’t enough. We need to make the investments in research that will tell us what we can do about it.

Dr Naomi Elster
Director of Research, PCR

As well as making sure that the newest, most cutting-edge technologies work for everyone, we need to take a hard look at whether the treatments, healthcare system and supports we currently have are working equally well for us all – if not, why not, and what can we do better?

Dr Naomi Elster
Director of Research, PCR

About Prostate Cancer Research


Prostate Cancer Research are a research and patient information and education charity focused on delivering breakthrough medicines and treatments for prostate cancer, particularly in the advanced stages of the disease. They have quintupled their research portfolio over the past 4 years, came through the coronavirus crisis without cutting a single research budget, and have been shortlisted for an impact award for their patient engagement work. They use their deep understanding of both patient priorities and the research ecosystem to direct their funding where it will have the most impact.

About the research projects


Professor Dmitry Pshezhetskiy and Dr Matt Winkler at the University of East Anglia are developing a PCR test, like those used to test for Covid, which could detect prostate cancer in Black men more accurately in the blood than a PSA test.

Dr Floor Christie-de Jong at the University of Sunderland will work with community members in Scotland and the northeast to delve into the reasons that Black men don’t seek help early, and develop, test and refine tactics to tackle this in partnership with the community.

Dr Greg Brooke and Dr Antonio Marco at the University of Essex will investigate a specific DNA code that exists in about 50% of Black men and which is rare in other ethnicities.  This code appears to regulate androgen receptor levels, a key protein in prostate cancer. The project will look for additional DNA code differences between ethnicities, which could be linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer.

Professor Robert Horne and Dr Jonathan Shamash at University College London will analyse NHS records to see if men from different ethnicities are more or less likely to choose and continue different treatments. They will also work with patients to uncover what stops men from continuing with treatment and how they could be better supported.

Dr Hari Iyer and Professor Timothy Rebbeck at Harvard University are looking at how our neighbourhood affects our ability to access healthcare. Evidence from this project will be useful to influence policy on both sides of the Atlantic.

About the Health Inequities Programme


The Health Inequities Programme has three strands: research into racial disparities, improving health literacy, and joining the dots on data. These three arms aim to build solutions to three key challenges: the disproportionate impact of prostate cancer on the Black community, the low health literacy affecting almost half of the UK’s population, which is linked to worse health outcomes, and existing data being overwhelmingly drawn from studies of White men. Researchers based in the UK or US were invited to apply for up to £300,000 for a duration of 1 – 3 years and were selected based on review by scientific experts and Black patients and their families. The Infopool aims to empower people living with prostate cancer to become better informed and have more effective conversations with thei8r healthcare teams by co-creating simplified and visually-focused information in collaboration with patient and clinical advisors. The prostate cancer registry provides patients from all backgrounds with the opportunity to donate their data to a centralised registry so that their experiences can be used to better inform the development of new treatments and diagnostics. Over 1,800 patients, including Stephen Fry, pledged to take part in the first few weeks of its launch.

For further information, please contact:

Kath Coleman

Research Communications Officer

kcoleman@pcr.org.uk

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