Prostate cancer is one of many diseases that disproportionately affects the Black community. We know this fight personally, both as an African American urologist, and as an African American prostate cancer survivor.
We’ve seen that, due to a likely combination of genetics and socioeconomic factors, African American men are at a double risk of diagnosis and death from prostate cancer when compared to their white counterparts.
It is unacceptable that Black men are being lost to this disease at an alarming rate. However, there is reason to be hopeful. In February 2020, data was published from a registry of nearly 2,000 men that may help us unlock a key to closing the mortality gap by utilizing an immunotherapy that gives some Black men a median overall survival of greater than four years. Analysis of the real-world use of an immunotherapy approved in 2010, PROVENGE® (sipuleucel-T), demonstrates some African American men living with metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) can increase their chance of survival by several years by harnessing the power of their own immune system.
In a press release about the registry results, Dr. Bruce Brown, Chief Medical Officer at Dendreon, shared that, “No other prostate cancer treatment has shown this level of added benefit in African American men with mCRPC.”
PROVENGE® has made a life-changing difference for many castration-resistant African American men. “I’ve got a lot of warriors inside me fighting.” says Euvon Jones, a prostate cancer patient who received PROVENGE in 2013.”PROVENGE taught my immune cells to find and kill my prostate cancer like B-52 bombers searching for enemy targets. And it works with my own blood. It’s all about the blood! Quality of life is my number one priority. I haven’t been sliced, burned, or radiated. Immunotherapy is simply harnessing your own immune system to fight your cancer without sacrificing quality of life.”
But the success of PROVENGE® is just one step toward helping to eradicate all racial disparities in prostate cancer. For decades, studies have shown that African-American patients are typically more likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease and to have higher mortality (at a rate twice that of Caucasian men). These differences are unacceptable — no group of men should lose their lives or live more at risk than others.
African American men should talk to their doctors about getting tested for prostate cancer. Receiving a quick digital rectal exam and a simple blood test can help save men’s lives! In fact, when prostate cancer is detected early, there’s a nearly 100 percent chance of survival! But when it’s detected too late, the survival rate unfortunately drops to just 30 percent. And given that prostate cancer is known as a “silent killer” testing is critical to survival, as the disease often presents no symptoms.
Education and access to diagnostics for African American men is paramount to overcoming the existing and troubling ratios in prostate cancer diagnosis and deaths. Something we wrote in a previous piece still stands: “When [African American] communities are denied access to quality healthcare service providers, they lose a lifetime of preventative care. Prostate cancer is almost 100 percent survivable when caught early, sparing patients from the intense treatments and potentially significant side effects of advanced disease.”
For a deeper dive into the issue of racial disparities in prostate cancer, join us for a free webinar on Wednesday, September 9, from 6:30 p.m.- 7:30 p.m. EST. RSVP at zerocancer.org/disparities-webinar.
PROVENGE® (sipuleucel-T) is an autologous cellular immunotherapy indicated for the treatment of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic castrate-resistant (hormone refractory) prostate cancer. For more information, visit provenge.com.