The Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development University Dedicated to the Underserved

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Education Update: Clark Atlanta University

African Americans represent a segment of the population often underserved and underrepresented in the larger research practices of American science.# Yet, they are more disproportionately impacted by cancers and other diseases than the general population.# Founded in 1999, the Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development (CCRTD) at Clark Atlanta University (CAU) is devoted to significantly increasing the understanding of the causes and treatments of cancer in African Americans, prostate cancer in particular.

Shafiq Khan, Ph.D., the director of the Center, says its mission is to conduct research and educational outreach to the black community.# “Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among American men, and African-American men are more than twice as likely to die of this disease when compared with Caucasian men,”# Khan said.# Approximately 200,000 new cases are diagnosed and approximately 30,000 deaths are attributed to the disease in the United States annually.# The reasons for this significant disparity in prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates in African Americans are unclear, but might include biological and genetic differences, and differences in the lifestyles, diets and exposure to environmental factors.# The focus of CCRTD research is to identify the biological and other reasons for prostate cancer health disparities in African-American men.

In 2009, a unique collaboration between CAU, the Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga. Tech) and surgical oncologists from St. Joseph”s Hospital of Atlanta (SJHA) was formed.# This collaboration has resulted in the creation of the Collaborative Center for Cancer Genomics (CCGC), which relies upon the expertise and resources at these institutions to develop diagnostic and treatment tools for cancer patients.# Since its inception, the CCGC has collected tissue from more than 90 prostate cancer patients. The overall objectives are: 1) to identify genome-wide differences in the expression of genes and mutations in tumor samples compared to those in the normal tissues from the same individual to identify markers that can be used for early diagnosis of prostate cancers; and 2) to identify signaling pathways which are altered in individual patients and hence can be treated by drugs that target those pathways in an effort to develop patient-specific treatment modalities.

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