Pilot Project 2 - Prostate

Characterizing DNA methylation signatures in prostate tumors to understand health disparities in Black and White men

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death amongst men in the United States. Prostate cancer health disparity has been attributed to ethnicity-related differences. In particular, men of African ancestry have a higher risk of prostate cancer than men of European ancestry. Men of African ancestry are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with and have two times higher death rates than men of European ancestry. It has also been reported that low-grade prostate cancer cells grow and spread more quickly in men of African ancestry than men of European ancestry. However, the factors and underlying mechanisms that lead to those ethnicity-related disparities are not yet fully understood. To characterize the molecular mechanisms of prostate cancer linked to ethnicity-related disparities, epigenetic alterations can be mapped using epigenomic assays such as DNA methylation. We aim to identify DNA methylation sites that are differentially methylated between prostate tumors from men of African ancestry and men of European ancestry and key epigenomic alterations linked to ethnic groups, using cutting-edge sequencing techniques and performing multi-omic integrative analyses. For this exciting project, we have assembled prostate cancer experts on molecular biology, bioinformatics, statistics, and pathology from USC, FAMU and UF. Dr. Suhn Rhie (PI for USC), who is a Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) Scholar in the National Cancer Institute (NCI)’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD) and K01 recipient with expertise in molecular biology and bioinformatics and has previously led big data analysis for The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and Encyclopedia of DNA Element (ENCODE) consortia, will lead DNA methylation profiling and bioinformatic data analyses. Dr. Sarah Buxbaum (PI for FAMU), who is a statistical geneticist with experience in cancer research and genetic analysis of African Americans, will lead statistical data analyses. Dr. Sara Falzarano (PI for UF), who is a board-certified anatomic and clinical pathologist and scientist with a special interest in prostate cancer research, will collect and assess prostate tumor tissues. Two members of the team who were selected by the CaRE2 community outreach core for this proposal are Ms. Justin Fayetta, community health navigator for prostate cancer patients, and Mr. Charles Man, a prostate cancer patient advocate. Successful completion of the proposed aims will identify key epigenetic alterations and molecular mechanisms impacting prostate health disparity. This finding would greatly assist researchers in developing novel biomarkers and therapeutic treatments.


Stevens C, Hightower A, Buxbaum SG, Falzarano SM, Rhie SK. Genomic, epigenomic, and transcriptomic signatures of prostate cancer between African American and European American patients. Front Oncol. 2023 Feb 28;13:1079037. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2023.1079037. PMID: 36937425; PMCID: PMC10018228.

Buxbaum SG, Arigbede O, Mathis A, Close F, Suther SG, Mazzio E, Saunders-Jones R, Soliman KFA, Darling-Reed SF. Disparities in Infant Nutrition: WIC Participation and Rates of Breastfeeding in Florida. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 May 29;20(11):5988. doi: 10.3390/ijerph20115988. PMID: 37297592; PMCID: PMC10253221.

Meet the Pilot Project Team


Sarah Buxbaum


Sara Moscovita Falzarano


Suhn Kyong Rhie


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