U-M researchers seek answers for African-Americans at risk for prostate cancer

fficulty UMHS faces in recruiting African-Americans for clinical trials is the low population of African-Americans seen at its own hospitals. Only about 5 percent of the hospital's population is African-American.

"Other studies have looked at hospital-based populations, but few have gone into the community to recruit a population like we did with the Flint Men's Health Study," says Aruna Sarma, Ph.D., assistant research scientist in the Department of Urology and coordinator of the Flint study.

In addition, there are cultural and attitudinal barriers toward medical research within the African-American community that need to be overcome. Some African-Americans may think back to the Tuskegee Study, a 40-year study of the effects of syphilis on African-American men. Even though an effective treatment for syphilis was discovered in the 1950s, the study continued for another 20 years and the men involved were neither given treatment nor told of any treatment option.

"There's a major issue of trust," says Willie Underwood, M.D., lecturer in the Department of Urology. "That combined with cultural attitudes toward research bred in part from the Tuskegee Study makes it difficult to develop fruitful relationships like the Flint Men's Health Study. Now there are research groups, such as the University of Michigan, making efforts to help build relationships with the African-American community. Without the participation of African-Americans in research studies, we can't answer complex questions about their health."

The Flint Men's Health Study was funded by a U-M Specialized Program of Research Excellence, or SPORE, grant in prostate cancer. Additional funding came from the U-M Office of Research and Minority Health, the Department of Urology and several Flint-based community organizations FAITH, Genesee County Health Department and QUEST Laboratories.

The study has yielded eight published papers to date, with more than 35 abstracts writ

Contact: Nicole Fawcett
University of Michigan Health System

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