$26.5 Million Grant Helps Investigators ‘RESPOND’ to Prostate Cancer

Rutgers Cancer Institute, NJ Department of Health, others collaborate on large-scale study examining the disease in African-American men
July 17, 2018

African-American men prostate cancer studyNew Brunswick, N.J. – A $26.5 million study examining African-American men and why they develop more aggressive forms of prostate cancer has been announced, with an aim of improving survival for this population. New Jersey State Cancer Registry Director Antoinette Stroup, PhD of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey along with Karen Pawlish, PhD of the New Jersey Department of Health, are among the nationwide collaborators on the ‘RESPOND’ study being led by the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC). The effort, which will also explore why these men are more likely to die from aggressive forms of prostate cancer, is being supported by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Dr. Stroup, who is also an associate professor of epidemiology at Rutgers School of Public Health, and Dr. Pawlish share more about the project. 

Q: Why is this topic so important to explore?

A: Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States, and New Jersey has the highest prostate cancer incidence rate in the nation with a rate of 127.4 per 100,000 men in 2015 (the U.S. average for the same time period was 99 per 100,000)1 thus underpinning New Jersey’s collaboration on this grant. Significant racial disparities among New Jersey men also played a key role in New Jersey’s involvement - the incidence of prostate cancer among African-American men is 50 percent higher than Caucasian men (113.3 per 100,000 among Caucasian men, 170.5 per 100,000 among African-American men)1. The disparities in mortality rates are even more pronounced with African-American men experiencing deaths from prostate cancer at a rate that is more than two and half times higher among African-American men compared to Caucasian men (15.3 among Caucasian men, 40.6 among African-American men) 1. Our lack of understanding about the increased burden of prostate cancer in African-American men remains one of the most important unanswered health disparities in the U.S. as well as New Jersey. Over the past 20 years, studies investigating this disparity have been small in size and limited in scope. To truly understand this priority heath issue, a broad initiative involving large numbers of African-American men is needed, and in New Jersey alone, as many as 5,141 new cases were diagnosed and 776 men died due to prostate cancer in the past 5 years1.

Q: The study is called ‘RESPOND’ (Research on Prostate Cancer in Men of African Ancestry: Defining the Roles of Genetics, Tumor Markers and Social Stress). What is involved?

A: We will be requesting that African-American men who have been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer contact us to learn more about the study or to respond to a letter they receive from the New Jersey State Cancer Registry. Participation includes completing a survey, providing a saliva sample, and giving researchers permission to access their prostate tumor tissue that has been saved at the facility where they received treatment. This information will then be used by researchers to study how exposure to stress over a lifetime, inherited susceptibility (i.e. genes), and tumor characteristics contribute to the development of prostate cancer and more aggressive disease.

Q: What will be the role of Rutgers Cancer Institute, the New Jersey State Cancer Registry and the New Jersey Department of Health in this study?

A: The New Jersey Department of Health and the Rutgers Cancer Institute are partners in statewide cancer surveillance and population-based epidemiological cancer research through their joint management of the New Jersey State Cancer Registry. As investigators, we (Drs. Stroup and Pawlish) will work together to coordinate recruitment and enrollment in RESPOND.

Q: What does the team hope to achieve?

A: Understanding social and biological factors that contribute to prostate cancer is a public health priority. It is expected that the information gained from RESPOND will lead to more effective interventions for preventing the disease, reducing late-stage diagnosis, and developing novel treatment strategies for African-American men. Recruitment for the RESPOND study is scheduled to begin in September. For additional information visit:

1 Based on data from U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group - U.S. Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations Tool, based on November 2017 submission data (1999-2015): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Cancer Institute;, June 2018.

Other collaborators include: Public Health Institute, Emory University, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, LSU Health New Orleans, Baylor College of Medicine, Moffitt Cancer Center, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute/Wayne State University and University of California, San Francisco.

For journalists – contact:

Michele Fisher
Media Relations Specialist

For patient appointments/inquiries call 732-235-8515


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