Researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) recently demonstrated that mitochondrial dysfunction may help explain the greater incidence of prostate cancer and poorer responses to conventional therapies in African American men. Such findings suggest that restoring proper mitochondrial function may be a novel therapeutic avenue to reduce such disparities. The research paper, titled “Mitochondrial dysfunction-mediated apoptosis resistance associates with defective heat shock protein response in African–American men with prostate cancer,” was published in the British Journal of Cancer.
The most commonly diagnosed cancer among African American men is prostate cancer, accounting for 31% of all cancers. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, African American men are more likely than Caucasian men to develop the malignancy and 2.4 times more likely to die from it, as they respond poorly to current therapies. The underlying causal mechanisms are still undefined, but researchers suspect that it is due to a combination of genetic differences, medical care, and lifestyle. More recently, mitochondrial dysfunction has also been identified as a possible key factor. “In an earlier study, we provided the first evidence that African-American men possess reduced levels of mitochondrial genetic material in healthy prostate tissues, compared to Caucasian-American men. This new study highlights the importance of mitochondrial dysfunction as one of the main reasons for prostate cancer health disparities,” said study leader Dr Dhyan Chandra.
In the study, researchers found that treatment with small molecule dichloroacetate, which usually can overcome the effects of mitochondrial dysfunction in chemotherapy resistance, was not able to restore mitochondria function to required levels in African American levels. Moreover, the mitochondrial dysfunction within prostate cancer cells appears to make African American patients more resistant to chemotherapy and therefore more vulnerable to disease spread and relapse. Researchers believe that such findings may provide an explanation for the disparities observed in treatment response and suggest the restoring mitochondrial function in the cells might lead to improvement of anticancer therapy results.
Although these findings are extremely insightful, more basic and clinical studies are needed to understand their impact in reaching our goal of eliminating the racial disparities in prostate cancer mortality,” said co-author Willie Underwood, III, MD, MS, MPH, Associate Professor in the Department of Urology at Roswell Park.