Clinical Perspectives

Department of Defense Funds Study of the Immune-Oncologic Profile of Lethal Prostate Cancer in African American Men

November 13, 2019


Drs. Yamoah, Park and Rounbehler have received DOD funding for a Moffitt-led research project poised to “characterize the immune-oncologic profile of lethal prostate cancer in African American men and develop new therapeutic avenues of therapy for this patient population."

The physician-scientist and researchers received a funding award of $1,719,936 over three years by the U.S. Army/Congressional Directed Medical Research Program. Dr. Kosj Yamoah serves as PI on the project, with co-PIs Drs. Jong Park and Rob Rounbehler. Co-Investigators on the project include Drs. Anders Berglund, Travis Gerke, Gina DeNicola, and Jasreman Dhillon.

Despite promising long-term survival in localized prostate cancer (PCa), metastatic prostate cancer remains largely incurable even after multimodal therapy. More African American men get and die from prostate cancer than European American men. They tend to get a more aggressive form of the disease. The lethality of advanced disease is driven by the lack of therapeutic regimens capable of generating durable responses in the setting of extreme tumor heterogeneity on the genetic and cell biological levels.

"We know that genes play a role in these cancer health disparities," says Dr. Yamoah. The goal of this project is to characterize immune regulators of lethal PCa in African American men (AAM) as compared with European American men (EAM) and to identify novel immune targets for treatment. Aims of the project include to characterize and compare the immuno-oncology mechanisms of PCa in AAM and EAM and identify immune-related genes as novel treatment targets for PCa in AAM.

"Our group recently developed a large pool of information using prostate cancer tumor samples of African American and European American men from Moffitt Cancer Center and partner institutions," Dr. Yamoah explains. "This large amount of new information will allow us to more carefully investigate the differences between African American men and European American men with prostate cancer using clinical information and outcomes, as well as information found directly within the prostate cancer tumor."

The implications of this proposed study in the AAM population are of immense clinical relevance in the era of precision medicine. Identification of a race-specific, immune-related biomarker signature of lethal disease has the potential to provide an impactful clinical tool to appropriately risk-stratify patients for future personalized interventional clinical trials. PCa organoid models will be utilized as a powerful, individualized platform for assessing the response of a patient’s tumor to available therapeutics under this grant mechanism. Furthermore, these organoids will be usedas models for targeted drug discovery to tailor PCa treatment. Such precision medicine efforts would not only include exploration of appropriate first-line therapies, but may also help guide effective treatment sequencing paradigms, understand cross-resistance patterns, and ultimately reduce health disparity of PCa. 

Rob Rounbehler, PhD

The Department of Defense's (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) manages the review and selection of funding applications that it receives for its medical research programs. CDMRP views its role in the medical research community as a leader in advancing medical and scientific research and filling research gaps “by funding high impact, high risk and high gain projects that other agencies may not venture to fund.”  The CDMRP originated in 1992 via a Congressional appropriation to foster novel approaches to biomedical research in response to the expressed needs of its stakeholders-the American public, the military, and Congress.