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New test aims to tackle prostate cancer rates in Black men

Published on 05/07/22 at 09:47am

A new genetic blood test is being developed for Black men, using DNA information and AI technology, aiming to combat the “staggering” racial disparities in prostate cancer diagnoses.

Prostate Cancer UK has shared that one in four Black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime, twice as likely compared to white men.

The team from the University of East Anglia, Imperial College NHS Healthcare Trust and Oxford Biodynamics, previously discovered that prostate cancer tumours leave a genetic imprint on blood cells.

Prof Dmitry Pshezhetskiy, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “In the UK there is a racial disparity in prostate cancer, where Black patients are twice as likely to develop the disease and die of it than white men.

“Recent research shows that this staggering racial difference for prostate cancer diagnosis and mortality is due to genetic differences, but their exact nature is currently not known. We want to create a fundamentally new, highly accurate genetic blood test for prostate cancer in Black men, taking into account their genetic diversity.

“Developing tailored genetic testing is really important because getting an early diagnosis allows better treatment. The five-year survival rate for men diagnosed with stage one prostate cancer is 100 per cent, compared with only 50 per cent for those with stage four cancer.”

The news arrives after Cancer Research UK’s March warning that more must be done to prevent a surge in preventable cancer cases among ethnic minority groups, who are often at higher risk due to external factors such as healthcare inequalities, poverty and discrimination.

Dr Naomi Elster, director of research at Prostate Cancer Research, said: “This important work led by Prof Pshezhetskiy is not only advancing our technology, it’s making sure that the most cutting-edge technology takes diversity into account so that it will work for everyone.

“There is a real need for a new way to diagnose prostate cancer, as the PSA blood test we currently use is not as accurate as we want, rectal exams are invasive and people understandably are not comfortable with them, and imaging techniques such as MRI require specialist equipment that may not always be available. We see real potential in this targeted genetic test.”

Ana Ovey

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