Project Summary

1 in 4 Black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer compared to 1 in 8 White men and 1 in 13 Asian men

The reasons behind these racial differences are poorly understood

Greg and Antonio have identified differences in regions of DNA near genes that are known to be important in prostate cancer

For example, they have found a genetic difference between Black and White men near the Androgen Receptor

The androgen receptor tells prostate cancer cells to grow and divide

Androgen receptor levels are higher in Black men, at the moment we don’t know why, but Greg and Antonio think that these genetic differences may be partly responsible

In addition to the androgen receptor, the team will investigate genetic differences near other genes linked to prostate cancer

They hope that this project could be used to identify men at higher risk of prostate cancer

About the Researchers

University of Essex

Dr Greg Brooke

Principal Investigator

Greg is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex and leads the Molecular Oncology Group. He is focused on the development of novel treatment options and biomarker assays for prostate cancer.

Dr Antonio Marco

Principal Investigator

Antonio is an evolutionary geneticist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex. He is interested in population variation at regulatory sites, and also works in the development of bioinformatic tools to study gene regulation.

Dr Ana-Maria Dumitrana

Post-doctoral Researcher

Ana is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Essex and she is focused on developing a computational tool to study alterations in our DNA and how this is related to the risk of developing prostate cancer.

The androgen receptor

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK. Black men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer compared to White men, and 2.5 times more likely to die from the disease, more research is needed to understand what causes this disparity.

The androgen receptor is a protein known to be key in the growth and spread of prostate cancer. Male hormones like testosterone drive the growth and spread of prostate cancers by attaching to the androgen receptor. This ‘switches on’ the receptor and it sends messages to the cancer cell to tell it to grow and divide. Previous research has shown that androgen receptor levels are higher in Black men, but at the moment, we don’t know why this is.

1 in 4 Black men will be diagnosed with

prostate cancer

Greg, Antonio and the team hope that their research will lead to the development of a test that can identify Black men at high risk of prostate cancer. These men could then undergo regular testing and any cancer will be diagnosed early, meaning they have access to better treatment options. The team believe that their method could also be used to check prostate cancer risk for men of all ethnicities.

The research project

Greg and Antonio recently identified genetic differences that may explain why Black men have an increased risk of prostate cancer. One of these differences was a region of DNA that controls androgen receptor levels. A certain DNA code is found in 90% of the overall population but 50% of Black men have a different sequence.  They think that this leads to different amounts of androgen receptor being made, increasing the risk of prostate cancer in some men.

In this research project they will confirm that these genetic differences do have an effect upon control androgen receptor levels. Greg, Antonio and the team will also investigate alterations in other genes linked to prostate cancer.  Finally, the researchers will analyse thousands of human genome sequences to find out if the genetic differences can predict men likely to develop prostate cancer.

By investigating and identifying other racial differences linked to prostate cancer, the team could discover new targets for treatments in Black men, leading to more personalised treatment options.

Black men are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer, but the reasons for this remain unclear. We have identified genetic differences between Black men and other populations in genes linked to prostate cancer, which appears to explain why some men are at higher risk of getting prostate cancer.

Dr Greg Brooke and Dr Antonio Marco
Lead researchers
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