HEALTH: Detroit Gets $9 Million Grant for Historic Study of Black Cancer Survivors to Develop Preventative and Treatment Strategies

Volunteer Bester King, a cancer survivor, at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. (Photo: Kathleen Galligan/Detroit Free Press)

article by , Detroit Free Press Columnist via freep.com

Bester King remembers the moment his doctor told him he had prostate cancer. The Detroit native, who grew up in the North End, was 61, had just retired two years earlier and had known the pain of the disease’s prowess. Both his parents had died of cancer.

“I wasn’t afraid. I don’t think I was in shock or anything,” said King, now 77. “I remember feeling a calmness. My dad had prostate cancer and passed two days before his 65th birthday. But that made me more aware of prostate cancer, so it helped save my life. I started getting checkups a lot sooner than I would have. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and lived to 95.”

King, who later also developed bladder cancer — and whose doctor also had both cancers — talks easily and forthrightly about his experiences. He hopes to recount those same experiences to researchers if chosen to participate in an unprecedented new project.

The Karmanos Cancer Institute and the Wayne State University School of Medicine just received a five-year grant to begin the nation’s largest-ever study of African-American cancer survivors — men and women — to examine why black people have a higher incidence of, and death from, cancer than other races.

The National Cancer Institute wants to use the study to develop national strategies to prevent and combat cancer in African Americans. The study, funded by a $9 million grant, will include 5,560 cancer survivors and 2,780 family members from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County. It will allow researchers, through survivor’s words and analysis of biological specimens, to analyze the disease’s progression and recurrence and to examine the quality of life and mortality of black patients.

Participants are being chosen randomly and confidentially from the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results, or SEER database, a collection of cancer incidence, mortality, survival and treatment information. The death rate for African Americans outpaces whites in all four major categories of cancer — colorectal, female breast, lung, prostate. The death rate for prostate cancer, for instance, was 35.9 per 100,000 black metro Detroit residents dying in 2011-13 compared with 17.1 per 100,000 white metro Detroit residents dying during the same period. The death rate for lung cancer was 56.3 per 100,000 black metro Detroit residents compared with 48.6 per 100,000 white metro Detroit residents.

“This study is critical to ensuring that underserved populations in Detroit and around the country benefit from new approaches for cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention,” Dr. M. Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University, said in a statement. “Focusing on the complex factors that generate disparities in cancer among underserved populations, such as African Americans, will lead to better treatments and improved approaches to cancer care for all Americans.”

To read full article, go to: Metro Detroit gets grant for historic study of black cancer survivors

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