University of Minnesota Receives National Cancer Institute Grant for First Treatment Study of Gay and Bisexual Men with Prostate Cancer

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

While prostate cancer treatment can make sex more difficult for straight men; very little is known about its effects on gay and bisexual men. The University of Minnesota is receiving a $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to conduct the first rehabilitation program to help such men overcome these challenges and improve their quality of life.

Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer among all men, with treatment affecting both sexual and urinary function. “There are plenty of studies on how prostate cancer treatment impacts heterosexual men and the kind of rehabilitation that improves their quality of life, but there’s good reason why those studies may not apply to gay men,” said principal investigator Simon Rosser, Ph.D., M.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Rosser notes there are several factors contributing to the lack of data. Many doctors believed those who had the disease were too old for sex and therefore did not need rehabilitation. Additionally, the AIDS epidemic took the lives of many gay men before they reached an age where they would typically be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

This interdisciplinary study will be a collaborative effort with researchers across the University of Minnesota, including investigators in the Medical School, School of Nursing, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and Engineering and the College of Education and Human Development.

Together, the team will design and then test a comprehensive program tailored specifically to the needs of gay and bisexual men and gay sex. The study will be online and available nationally. Half of the study participants will be randomized to receive the new comprehensive intervention, while the other half will serve as a control group.

The study will partner with some of the nation’s most prominent prostate cancer clinics serving gay and bisexual men and gay health clinics. Researchers are also partnering with Malecare, the nation’s largest nonprofit focused on gay and bisexual survivorship from cancer. Malecare will serve as a prime source of candidates for this study. “We have the world’s largest network of gay and bisexual cancer patients and we have helped numerous research projects accrue high numbers of participants in short amounts of time,” Darryl Mitteldorf, Malecare Founder and Executive Director said.

Current treatment options for prostate cancer include surgically removing the prostate, radiation, and systemic treatment. These treatments result in cessation of seminal fluid, severe erectile difficulties and loss of urinary control. Additionally, radiation can cause an irradiated bowel. Rosser, who recently conducted the largest study of gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer confirms these effects can be particularly devastating for homosexual men.

Rosser emphasized that studying prostate cancer in gay and bisexual men is not only valuable to that group. “Ultimately, science is stronger when we conduct studies in multiple populations. It helps us to think about problems in new ways and that can lead to new treatments.”

Mitteldorf said that collaboration between a major university and a major patient focused nonprofit highlights both the integrity and importance of this research.  “This study truly speaks to our mission to improve the lives of people diagnosed with cancer, their families and communities by making health services safe, available, understandable and sustainable. We look forward to continuing to partner with the University of Minnesota to do just that.”

Anyone interested in participating should contact the study at restorestudy@umn.edu.

###

About University of Minnesota School of Public Health
For more than 60 years, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health has been among the top accredited schools of public health in the nation.  With a mission focused on research, teaching, and service, the school attracts nearly $100 million in sponsored research each year, has more than 100 faculty members and more than 1,300 students, and is engaged in community outreach activities locally, nationally and in dozens of countries worldwide. For more information, visit www.sph.umn.edu. The School’s Centers for Public Health Education and Outreach promotes lifelong learning to bridge academic and public health practice communities.

About Malecare
Malecare works worldwide to improve the lives of people diagnosed with cancer, their families and communities by making health services safe, available, understandable and sustainable. We provide technical assistance, training and information, with a focus on practical solutions that improve services where resources are scarce. We believe that individuals have the right to make informed decisions about their health and to receive care that meets their needs. We work in partnership with governments, institutions and health care professionals to make this right a reality.  For more information, visit www.malecare.org.