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Ethnic Diversity and Disparities in Access to Genetic Testing Impact Prostate Cancer Development and Treatment, Research Shows

28 Nov 2022
Molecular Oncology;  Genetic and Genomic Testing
Prostate Cancer

SINGAPORE – More than 1.4 million men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2020 globally, (1) but the molecular characteristics of the disease remain unexplored for the majority of patients around the world. In the final days of the November campaign, which every year in November aims to raise awareness of men's health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men's mental health, (2) in concomitance with the forthcoming ESMO Asia Congress 2022 in Singapore, 2-4 December, two studies emphasise the need for ethnically diverse prostate cancer genomics data and accessible genetic testing.Prostate cancer is well-established as a BRCA-gene associated malignancy which can develop as a consequence of a hereditary cancer syndrome, and predisposition to the disease is known to vary across different ethnicities, with men of African and Caribbean descent being at increased risk. Only just beginning to be understood, however, is the impact of ancestry on the somatic mutations arising in the tumour, likely as a result of both genetic and non-genetic, societal-environmental factors linked to ethnicity. “Such race-related differences can condition the behaviour of the disease and its treatment, yet our current knowledge of prostate cancer genomics is largely limited to data from Europe and the USA, in which Asian and other non-Caucasian ethnicities are scarcely represented,” said Dr. Rodrigo Dienstmann, Grupo Oncoclínicas, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology, Barcelona, Spain, an expert not involved in the research.A study (3) has now confirmed the existence of variations in the genomic landscape of prostate cancer in Chinese men, by performing targeted genetic sequencing on the tumours of 1,016 Chinese patients and comparing the results with publicly available genomic data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), (4) Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre (5) and Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) (6) cohorts representative of Caucasian men.“The most important differences we observed were concentrated in castration-sensitive disease and included lower mutation rates in prostate cancer driver genes such as TP53 and PTEN among Chinese patients compared to the Western cohorts, which may partially account for the better prognosis observed in Asian men in this setting,” reported study author Dr. Yu Wei, Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Centre, China. According to Wei, this raises the question of whether the benefits demonstrated by current standard therapies in clinical trials with Western patients can be translated to the Asian population given the varying treatment responses induced by different driver mutations.  In the castration-resistant setting, genetic testing for a group of 15 genes responsible for DNA damage and repair (DDR) including BRCA1 and BRCA2 entered clinical practice in 2020 with the approval of PARP inhibitor olaparib, which achieved a 30% reduction in the risk of death for patients with metastatic disease. (7) The Chinese study found mutation rates in genes predictive of response to these therapies to be similar across the races, regardless of disease stage. “This suggests that Chinese patients can equally benefit from PARP inhibitors provided they can obtain access to the treatment, which is why we propose that all Asian men with metastatic prostate cancer should receive genomic testing,” Wei stated.Commenting on the results, Dienstmann observed: “The genomic heterogeneity we see in metastatic, refractory prostate cancer can be understood as the result of tumour evolution under the pressure of therapy over several years, but it is noteworthy that variation between ethnicities was also observed in the primary tumour, confirming the existence of baseline differences in cancer development across races. These findings are consistent with other recent research on Asian (8) and African (9) populations and underline the importance of increasing the diversity in prostate cancer genomics databases to better understand the molecular epidemiology and thus the testing strategies that need to be implemented in countries around the world.”The ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for prostate cancer (10) recommend germline genetic testing for BRCA2 and other DDR genes in all patients with metastatic prostate cancer alongside or following tumour testing, but also in individuals with a family history of cancer to allow the early identification of mutation carriers and contribute to the prevention and early diagnosis of tumours in relatives. Far from being a reality, however, access to testing could become a factor in deepening health disparities in the future.

From equal representation to equitable access to treatment

The recommended technology in prostate cancer molecular testing as per the ESMO Precision Medicine Working Group is multi-gene next-generation sequencing, (11) which is costly and requires high-quality testing and complex interpretation. As emerged in the preliminary results of a recent ESMO survey on the Availability and Accessibility of Biomolecular Technologies in Oncology in Europe, this is currently available only in selected academic cancer centres, and scarcely at all in low and middle-income countries. Developing the necessary infrastructure, which also includes resources and workflows for sample acquisition, preparation and storage, is a sizeable undertaking likely to require multi-stakeholder involvement.“Support programmes from companies like the one exemplified in a survey of physician testing patterns in India (12) are a good and necessary starting point for increasing patient access to testing. Moving forward, insights from these programmes should be made public to allow better understanding of local gaps in access to testing, as well as the prevalence of driver mutations in different patient cohorts. However, these programmes are not sustainable in the long term, and the study authors themselves report that post-test implications, such as drug affordability and availability of genetic counsellors, remain major barriers in India,” said Dienstmann. “National testing programmes will need to be implemented to support access to the medicines, and companies must increasingly engage in public-private partnerships, not just to facilitate the analysis of samples abroad, but to help build the local laboratory ecosystems that can make testing affordable and available to entire patient populations.”

Notes to Editors 

Please make sure to use the official name of the meeting in your reports: ESMO Asia Congress 2022 Official Congress Hashtag: #ESMOAsia22 Follow the conversation on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook


This press release contains information provided by the author of the highlighted abstract and reflects the content of this abstract. It does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of ESMO who cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the data. Commentators quoted in the press release are required to comply with the ESMO Declaration of Interests policy and the ESMO Code of Conduct. 


  1. www.wcrf.org/cancer-trends/prostate-cancer-statistics
  2. fr.movember.com/en/mens-health/prostate-cancer  
  3. Abstract 162MO ‘Genomic Characterization Revealed from Prospective Clinical Sequencing of 1016 Chinese Prostate Cancer Patients’ will be presented by Yu Wei during the Genitourinary Tumours Mini Oral Session on Friday 2 December, 16:15 - 17:45 SGT in Hall 407. Annals of Oncology, Volume 33, Supplement 9, November 2022.
  4. www.cbioportal.org/
  5. www.cbioportal.org/
  6. www.cbioportal.org/
  7. 7 J S de Bono, J Mateo, K Fizazi, F Saad, N Shore, S Sandhu, K N Chi, O Sartor, N Agarwal, D Olmos, A Thiery-Vuillemin, P Twardowski, G Roubaud, M Ozguroglu, J Kang, J Burgents, C Gresty, C Corcoran, C A Adelman and M Hussain. Final overall survival (OS) analysis of PROfound: Olaparib vs physician’s choice of enzalutamide or abiraterone in patients (pts) with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) and homologous recombination repair (HRR) gene alterations. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annonc.2020.08.870
  8. J Li, Xu Gao, Ting Wang, Yinghao Sun et al. A genomic and epigenomic atlas of prostate cancer in Asian populations. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2135-x
  9. W Jaratlerdsiri, J Jiang, T Gong, S M Patrick, C Willet, T Chew, R J Lyons, A-M Haynes, G Pasqualim, M Louw, J G Kench, R Campbell, L G Horvath, E K F Chan, D C Wedge, R Sadsad, I Simoni Brum, S B A Mutambirwa, P D Stricker, M S Riana Bornman and V M Hayes. African-specific molecular taxonomy of prostate cancer. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05154-6
  10. C Parker, E Castro, K Fizazi, A Heidenreich, P Ost, G Procopio, B Tombal and S Gillessen on behalf of the ESMO Guidelines Committee. Prostate cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annonc.2020.06.011
  11. F Mosele, J Remon, J Mateo, C B Westphalen, F Barlesi, M P Lolkema, N Normanno, A Scarpa, M Robson, F Meric-Bernstam, N Wagle, A Stenzinger, J Bonastre, A Bayle, S Michiels, I Bièche, E Rouleau, S Jezdic, J-Y Douillard, J S Reis-Filho, R Dienstmann and F André. Recommendations for the use of next-generation sequencing (NGS) for patients with metastatic cancers: a report from the ESMO Precision Medicine Working Group. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annonc.2020.07.014
  12. Abstract 167P ‘Genetic Testing for Prostate Cancer: The Indian Scenario’ will be presented by Ganesh Bakshi during the Poster Viewing Session on Saturday 3 December, 18:00 – 19:00 SGT in the Exhibition Area. Annals of Oncology, Volume 33, Supplement 9, November 2022.

Y. Wei1, Y. Zhu1, D. Ye2 1Urology, Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center, Shanghai, China, 2Shanghai Cancer Centre, Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center, Shanghai, ChinaBackground: Although disparities in prostate cancer (PCa) incidence and mortality among races have been well recognized, few biological factors driving disparities were identified, due to the lack of genomic data from minorities, including the Asian population.Methods: A total of 1016 Chinese PCa patients, including 315 locoregional PCa, 313 metastatic castration-sensitive PCa (mCSPC) and 388 metastatic castration-resistant PCa (mCRPC), were prospectively enrolled and underwent targeted sequencing. Genomic data retrieved from the TCGA, MSKCC, and SU2C cohort was used as a comparator representing the White men. The genomic mutations were analyzed using an integrated bioinformatics strategy. The relationships between race and genomic mutations were evaluated using Fisher's exact test and multivariable logistic regression.Results: Comparative analysis across disease stages revealed mutations in TP53, AR, FOXA1, and cell cycle pathway were enriched in mCRPC. Patients with visceral metastasis harbored more APC mutations compared with patients with bone metastasis. Genomic differences between races were mainly observed in castration-sensitive PCa, with tumors from Chinese men having more FOXA1 but less TP53 mutations in locoregional PCa and harboring fewer TP53, PTEN and APC mutations in mCSPC stage than those from White men. Unlike FOXA1 class-1 enriched in tumors from East Asian, FOXA1 class-2 was less common in East Asian patients and showed no enrichment in metastasis compared with primary cancer in East Asian cohort, in contrast to the findings in Western cohort.Conclusions: The magnitude of difference in mutation prevalence between PCa from Chinese and White men varied across disease stages and was strongest in castration-sensitive disease. The lower frequency of FOXA1 class-2 mutations in Chinese PCa underscored the mechanistic difference in driving cancer progression between races. We call for more genomic data from minorities with rich clinical information to reduce widening racial disparity and accelerate our understanding of the interplay between germline and somatic mutations on PCa tumorigenesis and development.Legal entity responsible for the study: Yao Zhu and Dingwei YeFunding: Has not received any fundingDisclosure: All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

G. Bakshi1, S. Addla2, A.P. Joshi3, S.J. Rajappa4, C.J. Desai5, H. Baxi6, V. Talwar7, P.N. Mohapatra8, S. Shingla91Uro Oncology, P. D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Mumbai, India, 2Uro Oncology, Apollo Cancer Institute - Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India, 3Medical Oncology Department, Tata Memorial Hospital - Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, India, 4Oncology department, Basavatarakam Indo American Cancer Hospital & Research Institute, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, 5Medical Oncology, Daiichi Sankyo, Inc., Basking Ridge, Gujarat, USA, 6Uro Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad, India, 7Medical Oncology, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre, New Delhi, Rohini, India, 8Medical Oncology, Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, Kolkata, Kolkata, India, 9Medical Oncology Department, Medanta - The Medicity, Gurugram, Gurugram, IndiaBackground: Prostate cancer (PrCa) incidence is on the rise and was the 12th commonest cancer in India (GLOBOCAN 2020). Genetic testing for PrCa has been widely advocated owing to its poor prognosis, familial risks associated with underlying mutations and therapeutic implication of these mutations. Data on genetic testing practices related to PrCa among Indian medical and uro-oncologists is meagre. With the availability of mutation-based targeted treatment for PrCa, there exists a need to assimilate the current practice patterns in genetic testing.Methods: An online questionnaire comprising 12 objective questions was developed, validated by a panel of 9 experts, and distributed. Responses were collected over 2 months, at the end of which 103 medical and uro-oncologists responded. Results were descriptively analysed and concluding statements on current practice patterns and future trends were formulated.Results: Genetic testing was advised by 64.1% of the oncologists for most PrCa patients. A majority chose to advise genetic testing at the stage of castration-resistant prostate cancer (58.3%). Patients with a positive family history of PrCa were most commonly referred for genetic testing (88.3%). Blood and primary tumor were the preferred specimens sent for testing. A 15-gene panel that play a crucial role in the homologous recombination repair (HRR) pathway was most commonly used (50.2%). Testing of the tumor followed by blood samples was the sequence most commonly followed (44.7%). The primary tumor provided maximum yield on testing for the mutations (42.7%). As per 64.1% of the oncologists, the positivity rate for prostate cancer was <5%. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines were followed by 68.9% of oncologists. Major barriers to genetic testing were affordability (89.3%) and lack of genetic counsellors (70.9%).Conclusions: Testing for genetic mutations in PrCa is a prevalent practice among oncologists in India. Making genetic testing more affordable through patient-assistance programs and increased awareness of the utility of genetic testing along with the availability of genetic counsellors would help improve access to drugs and facilitate better diagnosis and treatment of PrCa in India.Editorial acknowledgement: Authors would like to thank AstraZeneca Pharma India Limited in collaboration with BioQuest Solutions PVT. Ltd. India for medical writing assistance.Legal entity responsible for the study: AstraZeneca Pharma India LimitedFunding: AstraZeneca Pharma India LimitedDisclosure: All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

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