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Voices of PROMISE: Clarence Williamson

Warrior, Educator, and Advocate: Clarence Williamson 

Clarence Williamson Headshot

It has been 24 years since Clarence Williamson of Memphis, Tennessee, was stunned to hear the sobering words, “You have prostate cancer.” Clarence was 54 years old at the time. And despite a family history of various cancers, he had no symptoms that could forewarn this shocking diagnosis. The result of a routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test has transformed Clarence into a resolute prostate cancer warrior, educator, and advocate across the Mississippi River Valley and beyond.

Clarence is an African American man and he is not alone in his fight. African American men are at an increased risk for developing prostate cancer over White men and other men of color. An alarming 1 in 6 Black men will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime. Overall, Black men are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 2.1 times more likely to die from this disease than White men. Black men are also slightly more likely than White men to be diagnosed with advanced disease.”

After three PSA tests and a biopsy, Clarence’s cancer was categorized as extremely aggressive. Yet despite multiple recurrences and bone metastases following a radical prostatectomy in 1998, Clarence is doing well. Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT) has kept his PSA level undetectable and he continues this treatment routine to this day. According to Clarence, “Helping in the fight against prostate cancer is one of the most important things I have to do in my life.” Clarence is president of the Memphis Man2Man Prostate Cancer Support Group, which provides encouragement and informational services to newly diagnosed men, prostate cancer survivors, and their partners.

In March 2022, Clarence joined the more than 2,700 men to date who have enrolled in the PROMISE Registry since its inception in 2021. PROMISE is a registry of prostate cancer patients participating in a research study to learn how genetic differences can affect patient outcomes. Researchers seek to use this new information to improve the effectiveness of existing treatments, better guidance for different and/or new treatment options and suggest precise areas to explore for new discoveries.

When asked why he decided to join PROMISE, Clarence said, “After listening to the presentation, speaking with a PROMISE administrator, and doing some of my own research, I wanted to put my hat in the ring. I wanted to speak up for not only African American men who have an increased risk for prostate cancer, but all men. I was familiar with the highly reputable organizations affiliated with PROMISE ̶ Johns Hopkins and University of Washington. I understood the need for large-scale, diverse genetic information and the good that this could do.

Clarence further explained, “I have a science background. I am a strong believer in science. And I understand that genetic research is the future of cancer treatment. I am confident that the information PROMISE will provide will be extremely important. Researchers still have so many questions to be answered. For instance, why is there such disparity between prostate cancer incidence rates of White and Black men? I am incredibly hopeful that the data collected will give us some meaningful answers and new avenues to explore.”

When it comes to speaking to Black men like himself, Clarence says he tells it like it is. “You are twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease. And you have an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with a more aggressive form of the disease than White men. We need to understand the scientific basis for this. This information could not only save your life, but the lives of family members. Please consider joining PROMISE.”


Written By The Promise Study.

PROMISE is an important new research study that brings precision medicine to the fight against prostate cancer. The study is a long-term collaboration between researchers, doctors, and patients to improve knowledge and understanding of the critical role of germline genetic mutations (inherited genes) in men with prostate cancer. Precision medicine is an approach to tailoring disease prevention and treatment that takes into account differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles, it can be contrasted with a “one size fits all” approach that focuses on an average person without consideration of individual differences.

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