The Prostate Cancer Foundation and Robert F. Smith Announce New Effort to Address Health Disparities for African American Men

Expanded research program and revolutionary, inexpensive, non-invasive test to assess the genetic risk of prostate cancer is in development

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The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) and Robert F. Smith, founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, announce a new effort to reduce deaths from prostate cancer, one of the largest health disparities facing African American men today.

“As African American men are at an increased risk for being diagnosed or dying from prostate cancer, understanding their risk profile and applying this knowledge earlier with strategic detection, care, and decisions about cancer risk management is of utmost importance to address health inequity in the U.S.,” said Smith. “This is why I made a personal commitment to help accelerate research, encourage African American men to participate in the study and subsequent testing, and develop new detection strategies that have the power to transform how we diagnose and treat this disease and help save lives.”

The research Smith is supporting will lead to the development of the Smith Polygenic Risk Test for Prostate Cancer, a non-invasive, early detection test that will identify a man’s lifetime prostate cancer risk using a combination of more than 250 genetic variants obtained from a single sample of saliva or blood. The Smith Test is expected to cost less than $90 USD and will be made available in PCF’s dedicated Veterans Affairs (VA) network of Centers of Excellence, including the Robert Frederick Smith Center of Precision Oncology Excellence at the VA Chicago.

The test is part of a larger PCF research initiative to improve the understanding of genetic risk in African American men and transform early detection and imaging strategies, risk management, and clinical decision making by men at the highest lifetime risk of prostate cancer. The research, led by Dr. Chris Haiman, ScD, a genetic epidemiologist at the University of Southern California, and international colleagues is aimed at accelerating the reduction of prostate cancer disparities for African American men by 2030.

Prostate cancer affects more than three million men in the U.S., with one in nine men diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. African American men are disproportionately impacted. They are 76 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men and are more than twice as likely to die from the disease compared to men of other ethnicities. Earlier, strategic detection is a key step in finding a cure and ending the health disparity faced by men of African descent.

“Reducing prostate cancer disparities are at the heart of PCF’s mission to end prostate cancer once and for all. This test will democratize access to genetic testing and machine learning algorithms for prostate cancer risk. It will have a historical impact on public health, racial health justice, and cancer research. We are profoundly grateful to partner with Robert to close the health equity gap and spare more men the hardship of a late-stage prostate cancer diagnosis,” said Dr. Jonathan W. Simons, CEO of PCF.

Most genomic studies of prostate cancer have focused on men of European ancestry, and there is a vital need for additional resources to develop and optimize a polygenic risk score in those disproportionately affected. This new Smith-PCF initiative will increase the representation of African American men in the study and vastly expand the research to allow Dr. Haiman to quadruple the size of his study cohort, a key step to providing worldwide access to the Smith Polygenic Risk Test as soon as possible.