Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Finding a Cure

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Finding a Cure

Article excerpt

HBCU students, researchers on front lines of fight against prostate cancer.

Finding a cure for prostate cancer is personal for Clayton Yates, Ph.D., a researcher at Tuskegee University who also teaches cell and cancer biology. He is among the researchers at HBCUs who are dedicated to eradicating health disparities in prostate cancer - a disease that adversely impacts African-American males more than any other group.

Those HBCU institutions leading the charge in prostate cancer research include Tuskegee, Clark Atlanta, Hampton and Howard Universities and Morehouse School of Medicine.

"I chose to focus on prostate cancer after my grandfather passed away of the disease," says Yates, who is a principal investigator in a lab dedicated to prostate cancer research at Tuskegee University. "I was a student here at the time that he died, and I wanted to understand what could be done. I've dedicated my life to this research. " His work is a part of the Cancer Research Program at Tuskegee, which includes cancer research, education, research training, career development and outreach.

Yates is in good company along with Timothy Turner, Ph.D., who is the lead principal investigator for the Tuskegee University component of the Morehouse School of Medicine/Tuskegee University/ University of Alabama at Birmingham U54 Cancer Partnership, funded by a National Institute of Health collaborative grant for the three-way collaboration for cancer research focused on health disparities and various cancers.

According to Yates, the University of Alabama provides tissue cell samples from African-American patients who have had their prostates removed.

"In the U.S., prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in males, and it results in 30,000 deaths per year," says Yates, who shares the lab with graduate and undergraduate researchers. Our lab is focused on identifying biomarkers that clinicians can utilize to identify prostate cancers that are more aggressive, and thus, are more likely to kill patients, with a special interest in relating these biomarkers to African -American men who have the more aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

"Additionally, we are interested in understanding the basic molecular mechanism of how cancer cells become aggressive or metastatic, and translate these findings rapidly into the development of gene-directed therapeutics for the treatment of aggressive or metastatic tumors, for which, currently, there are no treatment options."

Prostate cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells in the body grow out of control in the walnut-sized prostate gland. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African - American men have a higher rate of getting the disease and dying from it than any other racial or ethnic group. One in five AfricanAmerican men has a chance of being diagnosed, and one in 20 is likely to die from it.

Besides race and ethnicity, family history and increasing age are also factors that increase risk. Also, a more aggressive form of the cancer and unique genetic factors are areas that researchers are studying, as well as causes, treatments, cures and ways to improve early detection of the disease in AfricanAmerican men.

State-of-the-art research

Leading the way in prostate cancer research, Clark Atlanta University's Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development is reportedly the only university center in the U.S. that is 100 percent dedicated to research and education on prostate cancer in African -Americans. …

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