Harvard researchers launch new project to investigate how neighborhoods contribute to prostate cancer inequity

Press Release

Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and the Rutgers University Cancer Institute of New Jersey, are investigating what it is about our neighborhoods that may increase a Black man’s risk of dying from prostate cancer. 

The project has been awarded $391,299 worth of funding as part of the charity Prostate Cancer Research’s racial disparities research program, aimed at addressing the health inequities in prostate cancer faced by Black men. 

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men in the US and it disproportionately affects the African-American community, with African-American men more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men. 

Dr Hari Iyer and Professor Timothy Rebbeck will leverage two new national datasets to discover features of neighborhoods that could be used to identify where people are at greater risk of prostate cancer. They will then correlate what they find with known barriers that prevent African-American men from accessing the PSA blood test which is used to diagnose prostate cancer. Ultimately, they hope to design and simulate interventions that could inform policymakers not only what to do to reduce the prostate cancer racial inequity, but also could tell us which areas most urgently need to be targeted. 

“We are extremely grateful for this award from PCR to pursue our study on how neighborhood environments and geographic access to prostate specific antigen screening impact racial disparities in prostate cancer mortality. Using nation-wide cancer registry and patient survey databases will allow us to identify generalizable predictors of screening use and survival, while also allowing us to dig deeper into the local neighborhood, behavioral, and sociodemographic characteristics that influence access and risk of prostate cancer in Black men. Study findings will inform the development of equity-oriented health care delivery interventions to reduce excess mortality among Black men with prostate cancer.”

Dr Iyer and Prof Rebbeck

“When we think about people accessing diagnosis and care, we tend to target interventions at the individual. If only this person knew more, did more. But it’s much more complex than that and where we live can hugely affect our health in ways we can’t, as individuals, always control. There’s already evidence that factors like green space and night-time light levels have real impact on us. It’s absolutely critical that more work like Dr Iyer’s and Prof Rebbeck’s is done, to tell us what big changes we need to make at societal and neighborhood level to safeguard our health.”

Dr Naomi Elster
Director of Research at Prostate Cancer Research

Prostate Cancer Research has committed to funding at least three rounds of targeted projects which will explore solutions to the racial disparity within prostate cancer over the next three years. As a UK charity, they have quintupled their research portfolio in four years, navigated the coronavirus pandemic and multiple lockdowns without having to cut a single research budget or project, and have been shortlisted for a major impact award for their work in connecting scientists to patients. This is their first US-based project and they plan to actively expand their work in the US, funding researchers on both sides of the Atlantic to amplify their impact for patients globally. 

About PCR

Prostate Cancer Research are a research charity focused on delivering breakthrough medicines and treatments for prostate cancer, particularly the advanced stages of the disease. They use their deep understanding of both patient priorities and the research ecosystem to direct their funding where it will have the most impact. Over the past two years, they have more than trebled the amount of their research, and currently fund a breadth of research into topics such as AI, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and novel drug targets in multiple institutions across the UK.  

For more information, please visit:


About the Racial Disparities Grant Call

The Racial Disparities grant call has been launched following both desk research and consultations with experts in the field, including healthcare professionals, researchers, community-based organisations, prostate cancer patients, and other relevant stakeholders, to ensure the key areas of need had been captured. Those we consulted were overwhelmingly of an Afro-Caribbean background. Key themes highlighted included the lack of and barriers to participation by members of the Black community in studies, the biological and social factors which affect prostate cancer risk, prognosis and treatment response for Black men, the fears, perceptions and psychosocial impact of prostate cancer in the Black community and how to make public health messaging more appropriate, effective and supportive to the needs of this community, and if a health care disparity exists within the NHS. Up to £300,000 for a duration of 1 – 3 years could be applied for.  

For more information, please visit:

Press enter or esc to cancel