IMPaCT Investigator Highlights (Text Version) - Dr. R. Renee Reams
Title: Genomics of Prostate Cancer Health Disparity
Investigator: R. Renee Reams, PhD; College of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, Florida A&M University
My background with prostate cancer research started about 2005 when one of my colleagues at Florida A&M University, Dr. Folakemi Odedina who was an active researcher in prostate cancer research actually wanted to increase the number of minority faculty at our institution, Florida A&M who were actively engaged in prostate cancer research. So to that end, she decided to write a DoD Grant that would partner a minority institution with an NCI center, in our case Moffitt Cancer Center. So she sent out-she blasted out an e-mail to find out which faculty would be interested in this collaboration. I heard the call and I took it.
So it was a prostate cancer training and education grant and that was the beauty of it. It actually gave monies to introduce you to the area of prostate cancer research through what she and the Moffitt Cancer researchers decided to do was to craft modules, educational modules, that was to give you prostate cancer 101. So these are people-because we were faculty who you know we had degrees in biochemistry, medicinal chemistry-various pharmaceutical sciences and biomedical sciences, but no cancer biology. They wanted us to actually develop the knowledge and content in cancer and then-then branch out into prostate cancer.
So it was educational and then there was an opportunity to do pilot projects, so that's where the collaboration came. Teams of scientists or individual scientists at Moffitt would put down their research interests and we could just go down the list and say I think I'd like to talk to this person. And so she made that connection. We traveled from Tallahassee to Tampa, about a 4-hour drive and just had a research retreat day where we got to talk one on one.
So I met two people there that I just hit it off with right away and they had been looking at polymorphisms and the androgen receptor and so then I said has anybody ever looked at differences in genetic profiling in tumors from African American and Caucasian. That was 2000-late 2004 and believe it or not it was not in the literature. All the CDNA microarray had been done-had been done on samples that were not specifically detailed. There was no description of whether they came from European Americans or African Americans. Nobody had really just sorted according to population or race. So the-the mentor said that's a great idea and so that was my pilot project to do a comparative study on gene expression profiling of tumors of the same stage and grade from African Americans and European Americans.
The PCRP's efforts to deal with health disparity issues are just phenomenal. We know prostate cancer affects all men but when we see the disparate numbers of men of color, African Americans, in particular, who are affected-it just speaks that something-something is going on here we need to find out, and that when we find out it can actually be for the good of all. So the fact that I've been able to get funds to work on this even from an idea, even from a pilot grant is just so awesome.
My thoughts on collaborative research is why did I work alone so long. It's-it's awesome; going back to my original mentor and my colleague, Dr. Folakemi Odedina, she's a population scientist. I am a biochemist and molecular biologist, and so I guess back in the day we may not have been in the same room talking the same science, but now we are. And to that end, she's put together actually a team of scientists from all disciplines that address prostate cancer health disparities. It's like putting the best of everybody's ideas on one effort and synergizing. It's not necessarily that you have to wait until this person-it's not tag science; it's really synergy.
We found collaborators not just here in the U.S. but globally Dr. Odedina has assembled a team and so we really stretch the globe because when I looked at my gene expression data for African Americans, even though it was a small sample size, I found that you know genetically I can show that there really is differences within African American groups. And so I need to presort based on probably racial ancestry.
So we're really excited about this and so this is truly moving forward. And the band is growing larger and larger, so it's going to be a symphony pretty soon.