Project Summary

The immune system is made up of two parts. The innate immune system is what you're born with and the adaptive immune system develops over time.

B cells are part of the adaptive immune system. They create antibodies to fight germs and infections.

B cells have been linked to certain cancers, but whether they are beneficial or harmful to prostate cancer has yet to be determined.

Research has found that Black men have more B cells than White men with prostate cancer.

We already know that Black men are more likely to die from and develop prostate cancer. This study will identify if B cells play a role in this disparity.

The results of this study will help our understanding of prostate cancer, create targeted treatments, and identify people who are at a higher risk.

About the Researchers

Dr. Geou-Yarh (Stancy) Liou

Principal Investigator

Dr. Geou-Yarh Liou received her Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Michigan State University where she studied cell signaling of protein kinases in breast cancer and Parkinson disease. Currently, she holds a tenured associate professor position at Clark Atlanta University. Her research focuses on the mechanisms of the cell microenvironment, especially immune cells leading to cancer initiation and progression.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among senior men and the second leading cause of cancer death in men. We also know that Black men are over twice as likely to develop prostate cancer compared to White men, but we don’t know why.

The Immune System

Previous research has shown that there are certain cells of the immune system that may contribute to the development of prostate cancer.

The immune system works to protect your body from outside invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins. Like the rest of your body, your immune system is made up of different organs, cells, and proteins that work together to keep the bad germs out.

There are two main parts; the innate immune system is what you’re born with, and the adaptive immune system develops when your body is exposed to toxins and germs. But we still don’t know everything about how the immune system works.  

B cells are a key part of the adaptive immune system because they create a type of protein called antibodies. These antibodies bind to foreign substances, such as toxins and germs, to prevent them from entering a normal cell and causing infection.  

B cells, while known for fighting outside infections, have also been linked to inside diseases such as cancer.

In certain cancers, such as breast, ovarian, lung, and colon cancers, an increased number of B cells have shown higher survival outcomes. But in prostate cancer, the effect of B cells is still unknown, and researchers are still unsure whether B cells are helpful or harmful to survival rates. 

Researchers have discovered that there is an abundance of B cells found in Black men compared to White men. 

The Research Project

Black men have a higher incidence of prostate cancer as well as a higher death rate than other racial groups. Unfortunately, this discrepancy is not well understood.

Research has indicated that B cells have the capability of being anti-tumorigenic, meaning that they would attack and kill the cancer cells like it would outside germs, or pro-tumorigenic, meaning that they can cause inflammation and aid in the development in certain cancers.  

Researchers don’t know what role B cells play in relation to prostate cancer. But previous data shows that there is a 20-fold higher level of tumor infiltrating B cells in prostate cancer tissues than normal human tissues; and they are at a significantly higher level in Black men.  

This research will use human prostate cancer tissue to dissect the roles of B cells in prostate cancer progression and disparity and establish how these cells modulate prostate cancer development. These results will reveal if higher numbers of B cells can predict likely outcomes of prostate cancer and help further explain the racial disparity 


What will this mean for patients?

We know that Black men are the most common men to develop and die from prostate cancer, but there isn’t enough research to tell us why this is. This research is being done to identify if the high numbers of B cells, and the even higher number of B cells in Black men, aid in the development and progression of prostate cancer 

Results of this research will identify the relationship between the B cells abundance and prostate cancer patient outcomes, survival, and progression. The results will also reveal if a higher B cell capacity plays a role in the prostate cancer disparity between White and Black men.  

Determining these results are key factors to understanding prostate cancer, developing new therapeutic treatments, and identifying people at an elevated risk of prostate cancer.

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