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Sandy Srinivas, MD


Researchers Link Metabolic Biomarkers With Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer in Black Men

By: Chris Schimpf, BS
Posted: Friday, September 8, 2023

A team of researchers investigating the higher incidence of prostate cancer and poorer outcomes among Black men versus men of other races has identified four metabolism-related biomarkers that may be linked with an increased risk of metastatic prostate cancer in men of West African heritage. Building on their research into overlaps between cancer and diabetes (which also disproportionately affects Black people and is linked with increased mortality in Black men with prostate cancer), Sarah Shuck, PhD, of the Beckman Research Institute at City of Hope, Duarte, California, and colleagues conducted a study focused on methylglyoxal—a product of metabolism that is elevated in people with diabetes. Their findings, presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, may prove useful in improving testing and treatments for Black patients with prostate cancer.

“We have identified genetic and other molecular changes that we hope to develop to predict which Black men are at the highest risk of having their cancer spread,” said Dr. Shuck in a press release. “Ultimately, we hope to build a multicomponent test doctors could use to predict which Black men are at the highest risk of developing and dying from prostate cancer.”

Blood samples from 371 men with and without prostate cancer were collected from four sites across the United States, which the investigators assessed for genetic evidence of West African heritage. They then looked at four markers associated with methylglyoxal: the complexes it forms with DNA, RNA, and protein and a variation in the gene GLO1 that encodes a protein that detoxifies these complexes.

Among the participants, the researchers observed that men of West African descent had lower levels of these malignancy-promoting complexes in their blood—which, contrary to their expectations, was associated with a greater risk of metastatic disease. They speculated that the complexes may become sequestered in tumor cells and may spur on metastatic processes from within, noting these findings did not appear to apply to men of European descent and that further research is necessary.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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