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Moffitt researches prostate cancer in blacks

In an effort to help lower the risk of prostate cancer among blacks, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center has teamed up with Florida A&M University to develop the Minority Prostate Cancer Training and Research Center. The program will provide extensive research on the increased incidence of prostate cancer among blacks, train FAMU students to become interested in treating and preventing prostate cancer, and provide outreach programs in the community.

“This is an untouched area. This hasn’t been given this much importance before,” said Nagi Kumar, Moffitt’s Director of Nutrition.

Bob Samuels, chairman and CEO of the Florida Prostate Cancer Network and a board member of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, assisted both FAMU and Moffitt in obtaining a grant from the Department of Defense to fund the center. Samuels is also a 10-year prostate cancer survivor and had served as a reviewer on the first DOD prostate cancer review panel in 1998. At the time, Samuels said that he felt that it was an ideal program to get both Florida institutions working together.

The grant received from the DOD for the collaborative project totals $904,800 and is being awarded through the DOD’s prostate cancer program.

According to the American Cancer Society, black men have the highest prostate cancer incidence rate in the world and are twice as likely to die from the disease than any other group. After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the second highest diagnosed cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer death in men. Black men have an incidence rate 60 percent greater than white males and a death rate twice that of white men.

Moffitt’s role in the joint venture is to begin to develop, establish and implement collaborative research, training and outreach programs about prostate cancer, said Kumar.

“We, as a research center, are experts in the disease and we are also experts in the scientific methodology to be used and what to look at in these cancers,” Kumar said.

FAMU contributes researchers to the collaboration, and guidance to help the program in the right direction.

“FAMU is a known minority institution that has minority researchers that know how to go about conducting research and they know the most important research questions that effect their community,” Kumar said.

There will be three main focuses for the joint program between FAMU and Moffitt: creating a training program, the marriage of important skills from FAMU and Moffitt and the creation of community outreach programs.

The first phase of the program is to train FAMU students, specifically minority students, to become more interested in prostate cancer research. “We feel they are the ones who are going to make a difference,” Kumar said.

The second phase of the program is for Moffitt and FAMU to combine their skills in order to create better research opportunities as well as provide better care for minorities with prostate cancer.

The final focus of the center is the creation of a community outreach program, which will be headed by Samuels. Kumar said Samuels would be ideal for the program because he is a leader in the field of prostate cancer and is outspoken in getting the message out about early screening, educating minority populations and getting more people involved in research. Also involved in the outreach program are community leaders, community organizations, the Florida State Government, researchers from Moffitt and FAMU and the American Cancer Society.

Kumar said she feels that this joint venture between the two organizations will help lower the incidence of prostate cancer in black men, as well as working on other types of cancer prevalent to minority groups.

“It’s going to open up new doors and help us to resolve the issue of this disparity in cancer incidence in the African-American population and this can be extended to other cancers where the incidence of cancer is very high in the African-American community,” Kumar said.