Originally created 03/03/98

Detroit professor to help lead federal study of prostate cancer



DETROIT -- A Detroit urology professor diagnosed with prostate cancer is one of the investigators in a federal study of what causes the disease in fellow black men.

The $800,000 federal study involving several cities including Atlanta seeks to address a troubling question: Do black men die more from prostate cancer because they are diagnosed late or because the disease develops more aggressively in them?

Notably, Dr. Isaac Powell and other researchers will lead the study in every way, from recruiting men to analyzing genetic patterns. That's a first, Powell said.

The study -- funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Human Genome Project, is being conducted in Detroit, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City, Houston, Atlanta and the state of South Carolina.

Powell, associate professor of urology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, will oversee $571,000 in funds from the grant, the Detroit Free Press reported today.

Powell said he told Dr. Francis Collins, head of the national genome project: "The only way for this to be successful is for blacks to control it from top to bottom."

Prostate cancer -- the most common cancer -- will be diagnosed this year in an estimated 184,500 American men, according to the American Cancer Society. Powell's was diagnosed in January 1997.

Last month, the cancer society joined with 100 Black Men of America -- an Atlanta-based national group -- to urge a national attack on prostate cancer. Powell is part of the effort, helping other cities devise outreach strategies to get more men to be tested.

Black men have the highest rates of the disease of any group worldwide. A hereditary form is two times more prevalent. Black men also have a higher incidence of a genetic abnormality linked to more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, Powell said.

Only one in four black men get annual tests for prostate cancer, compared to one in two white men, Powell said.

"What I usually hear is, `I'm feeling fine. I don't need to be tested,"' Powell said.

Because of their deadlier bouts with the disease, black men should begin getting annual tests at age 40, compared to 50 for their white counterparts, the cancer society and other groups suggest.

The tests are a rectal exam and a blood sample called the prostate specific antigen. Many centers offer the tests free during the year -- often during October, which is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.