African-American men are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with and dying from prostate cancer than European-American men because of a particular molecule in the body.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for African-American men.1 African-American men have a 70% higher incidence rate and are two to three times more likely to die from the disease compared to European-American men.1 A new study investigated whether there is a biological reason for this disparity.
Researchers tested prostate cancer samples from patients and studied the molecular structure of these cancer cells as well as the makeup of the tissue next to the tumor.
Cell signaling is the communication process that tells cells what to do. It rules all cell actions, such as tissue development, repair, and fighting diseases and infections.
Investigators found that a signaling molecule called interleukin-6 (IL6) was more common in the non-cancerous tissue next to tumors in African-American men compared with European-American men. IL6 stops a gene which blocks the forming of tumors from working. The gene in question – the p53 tumor-suppressor protein – also promotes the self-renewal of cancer cells.
The research also revealed that IL6 from the cancerous cells caused an increase of a protein that fuels the growth of aggressive cancer cells – known as prostate cancer stem cells – which are considered by scientists to be the source of therapy resistance and metastatic tumor growth.
Scientists hope that they will be able to gain a more complete understanding of the way the cell-signaling process is activated by IL6 in the tissue around the tumor, which could lead to a lower death rate for African-American men with prostate cancer.
Dr. Aliccia Bollig-Fischer, one of the researchers from the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, said, “Our goal is to identify opportunities to develop transformative, targeted therapies to overcome race disparities and improve outcomes for all men with aggressive prostate cancer.”
Continued research is needed to discover how the findings can be used to overcome racial disparities in prostate cancer and to improve outcomes for all men.
Teslow EA, Bao B, Dyson G, Legendre C, Mitrea C, Sakr W, Carpten JD, Powell I, Bollig-Fischer A. Exogenous IL6 induces mRNA splice variant MBD2_v2 to promote stemness in TP53 wild-type, African American PCa cells. Mol Oncol 2018. doi: 10.1002/1878-0261.12316.
- American Cancer Society (2016). Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2016-2018. Available from: https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/cancer-facts-and-figures-for-african-americans/cancer-facts-and-figures-for-african-americans-2016-2018.pdf (accessed May 2018).