Closing the Gap on Prostate Cancer in South Carolina

September 17, 2008

COLUMBIA, SC – September 17, 2008 – Prostate cancer screening and early detection can mean the difference between life and death for African-African men, who are more likely to get prostate cancer and die from it than men of other races, according to the American Cancer Society.
To address this problem, the board that oversees the state’s Centers of Economic Excellence (CoEE) Program has approved $3.6 million in S.C. Education Lottery funds for a new Center of Economic Excellence in Prostate Cancer Disparities Research. The Center is a three-way collaboration among the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), the University of South Carolina (USC) and South Carolina State University (SCSU). This is the first CoEE for which SCSU has been a partner.
“The engagement of multiple universities, including a historically black university, makes this a true collaboration,” says USC Interim Vice President for Research Dr. Rose Booze. “South Carolina has great strength in health disparities research at all three participating institutions.”
According to MUSC Hollings Cancer Center (HCC) researcher Dr. Marvella Ford, project co-director for the CoEE, “The new Center will work to increase prostate cancer screenings and access to clinical trials for African-American men in South Carolina. It is designed to help make South Carolina a world-class leader in this emerging area of medical research and will serve as a training ground for students and junior faculty.” The Center will be housed on the MUSC campus. Working with Ford on the project are co-directors Dr. Saundra H. Glover from USC and Dr. Judith Salley from SCSU.
“Prostate cancer research is undergoing a period of intense growth, with the aim of reducing mortality due to this disease,” MUSC Provost Dr. John Raymond explains. “A major problem faced by prostate cancer researchers in this state is a lack of inclusion of African-Americans in the studies being conducted. Despite the fact that prostate cancer mortality rates in South Carolina are three times greater for African-Americans than for Caucasians, African-Americans are significantly underrepresented in clinical trials according to the HCC Cancer Registry. With this new Center, we will actively work to close the gap, so that all men in South Carolina are being screened and treated for prostate cancer.”
Renowned scientists will be recruited to fill three CoEE endowed chair positions at the Center. These scientists will conduct prostate cancer clinical trials at the Center and lead a team of junior researchers. Together, these researchers will look at aspects of obesity and lifestyle modifications as contributing factors to prostate cancer and examine factors that influence African-American men in being screened and seeking treatment. The new Center will also work with partners around the state to carry out clinical trials.
“There is a huge disparity in the incidence of prostate cancer and mortality rates in South Carolina, where men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at significantly higher rates than men in other areas of the U.S., according to the International Agency on Research for Cancer,” Raymond says. “On a national level, African-American men have an incidence rate of prostate cancer that is 55 percent higher than that of Caucasians. In contrast, in South Carolina, the prostate cancer incidence rate is 80 percent higher for African-Americans than for Caucasians. We believe that screening and prostate cancer early detection is key in reducing mortality rates among African-American men who tend to be diagnosed at younger ages and who may have more aggressive forms of the disease.”
Raymond believes that the Center will have a positive economic impact on South Carolina as a whole. First, the state could see a significant reduction in lost work productivity and medical expenditures as a result of improved levels of prostate cancer early detection and treatment. Second, world-class scientists who will lead the center have the capacity to attract large amounts of extramural funding to the state from corporations or federal agencies. These grant funds will result in the immediate creation of new jobs. Third, the new Center will help build the universities’ academic strength, so they can attract the best and brightest junior faculty and graduate students. Fourth, the enhanced clinical trials and ongoing prostate screening research will lead to diagnostic tests and cancer screenings that can be commercialized—moving discoveries from “bench to bedside,” which can stimulate the state’s economy.
“Through this Center, we can fuel South Carolina’s knowledge economy and create high-paying jobs for our citizens, which is why the CoEE program exists,” says CoEE Review Board Chair Paula Harper Bethea. “At the same time, we can save and improve lives in every corner of South Carolina and all around the world.”

About the CoEE Program
The S.C. Centers of Economic Excellence Program was established by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2002, funded through South Carolina Education Lottery proceeds. The legislation authorizes the state’s three public research institutions, Medical University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina, to use state funds to create Centers of Economic Excellence in research areas that will advance South Carolina’s economy. Each Center of Economic Excellence is awarded from $2 million to $5 million in state funds, which must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with non-state funds. The program also supports CoEE endowed chairs, world-renowned scientists who lead the Centers of Economic Excellence. By investing in talent and technology, the CoEE Program is designed to fuel the state’s knowledge-based economy, resulting in high-paying jobs and an improved standard of living in South Carolina. For more information, visit
To receive award funding for a CoEE, the three research universities submit proposals that undergo a three-tier review process. Each proposal is first subjected to a technical review by field experts. After studying the technical review scores, the CoEE Review Board decides which proposals qualify for evaluation by an onsite review panel. This external review panel comprises mainly senior research officials from Association of American University institutions. After receiving recommendations from the panel, the CoEE Review Board votes on which new Centers of Economic Excellence to fund.