Wayne State to study role of microRNAs in prostate cancer racial disparities

November 13, 2013

DETROIT -- African American men have a 60 percent higher risk of developing prostate cancer than European American men, and a 2.4 times higher risk of dying from the disease. Some of the reasons can be attributed to differences in screening practices and treatment, but further research is needed to determine more explicit explanations.

Researchers at Wayne State University recently received a $684,000 research grant from the Department of Defense to explore the genetic and epigenetic factors - factors that interact with genes - that might contribute to this racial/ethnic disparity in prostate cancer risk and progression. They will look at MicroRNAs (miRNAs) - small RNA molecules that play a role in both gene regulation and expression that are detectable in circulating blood as well as tissues - as potential biomarkers for prostate cancer and tumor aggressiveness as well as prognosis.

"Little is known about the role of miRNAs and their biogenesis in prostate cancer," said Cathryn Bock, Ph.D., associate professor of oncology at Wayne State University. "In addition, less is understood about the possible race-specific role of miRNAs in prostate cancer aggressiveness and outcomes. Our research will look at polymorphisms in genes in the miRNA biogenesis pathway and plasma miRNA levels to see if they are potential indicators for prostate cancer aggressiveness or outcome and how these associations might link to race."

Bock and her collaborators will exam the association of inherited polymorphisms in genes in the miRNA biogenesis pathway, as well as the association of plasma miRNA levels with prostate cancer aggressiveness and biochemical recurrence in 480 African American men and 320 European American men.

"This project may show that certain miRNAs are potential targets for treatments with demethylating agents to prevent or slow prostate cancer, and that these target miRNAs may vary by race," said Bock. "Identifying risk profiles of men who may benefit from such treatment based on race, inherited genotypes or plasma miRNA levels will provide momentum for developing the field of personalized medicine."
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The Department of Defense project number for this grant is PC121963.

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.

Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research

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