Detroit’s Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute has snared a four-year, $1.23 million grant renewal from the U.S. Department of Defense to keep its membership in the prestigious Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Consortium (PCCTC) program.
Karmanos, a member of the consortium since 2008, was one of only seven sites funded this year, down from 11 sites in 2013. Leading the institute’s involvement in the consortium will be Dr. Elisabeth Heath, who heads the genitourinary oncology multidisciplinary team at Karmanos.
“African-American men face numerous socioeconomic, religious and health barriers to participating in clinical trial-based therapy,” Heath said in a press release. “By increasing trial opportunities and resources within an accessible healthcare system located in a predominantly African-American community such as Detroit, my colleagues and I strive to improve clinical trial access and overcome some of the other potential barriers to clinical trial enrollment for African-Americans.”
One of the major concerns in prostate cancer research is the incidence disparity between black and white men. African-Americans are 1.6 times more likely to get prostate cancer and 3.4 times more likely to die from it than white men. In addition, African-Americans often have higher prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels as well as more advanced disease.
Karmanos researchers are working to better understand contributing factors for this disparity, including poverty, inadequate access to prostate screening and reasons behind these disparities by looking into the factors that could potentially contribute to this disparity – including socioeconomic factors, access to prostate screening and racial differences in cancer biology.
Yet this disparity isn’t sustained across participation in clinical trials.
“We want to fully encourage African-American men who have prostate cancer to consider taking part in a clinical trial,” said Heath. “Many times, clinical trials provide the best options for patients who have exhausted other therapeutic avenues. Clinical trials also provide treatment that’s as good as standard of care. And, by participating in a clinical trial, African-American cancer patients can pave the way for the development of therapies that will benefit future prostate cancer patients.”
Heath will work with a co-principal investigator — Dr. Ulka Vaishampayan, director of the Eisenberg Center for Translational Therapeutics — as well as two co-investigators at Karmanos, Dr. Isaac Powell and Lance Heilbrun.