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Genetic cancer research to turn its sights on men

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Carika Weldon, the founder and chief executive of CariGenetics, at Bermuda College (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A genetic research laboratory has teamed with a men’s health awareness group to study the links between prostate cancer and genes among people of Caribbean descent.

Carika Weldon, the founder and chief executive of CariGenetics, said approval was granted from the ethics committee at the Bermuda Hospitals Board for the lab, in tandem with the charity DailyMale, to proceed with genetic sequencing that will explore the roots of the disease.

She added: “We want to present these results in November for Men’s Health Month.”

Team CariGenetics: Keiazia Burchall-Busby, left, senior lab technician, Serra Pacheco, lab technician, Carika Weldon, the CEO, and Kevina Loraé Santucci (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The announcement came on the heels of the initial results for the lab’s pioneering study of breast cancer, using the genetic sequences of residents of Caribbean descent.

The Caribbean Whole Genome Breast Cancer Research Pilot Study was the most comprehensive research to date of the disease in the region — with native residents of Caribbean islands tending towards higher rates of inherited breast and ovarian cancer.

Prostate cancer is also higher among people of Afro-Caribbean descent, Dr Weldon said.

She added: "My goal, and our goal at CariGenetics, is to understand why so we can do something about it.“

Dr Weldon said working with DailyMale would enable the study to move swiftly, using the charity’s existing contacts from its large pool of men involved.

The research will require 50 men in the patient group and 50 men who were cancer-free.

Dr Weldon said: “Working with DailyMale, they already have the attention and the trust, so we can reach them more effectively.”

She added: “That was a big, big win.”

Details on the breast cancer survey included 17.6 per cent of patients in Bermuda carrying a variant of a cancer-predisposing gene, versus 5 to 10 per cent in the United States and Britain, and 14 per cent in Africa.

This placed the island third for genetic links to the disease among others in the Caribbean region, with Barbados at 17.8 per cent and the Bahamas at 28 per cent.

Dr Weldon is to give further findings in a free lecture at the Bermuda College’s Athene Auditorium from 2pm on May 18.

She added she had been invited as the plenary speaker to talk about the research at the global Oxford Nanopore conference, London Calling, this month.

Jonathan Makajuola, a urologist who helps to run the DailyMale clinics, called the work “exciting new research”.

He said: “Prostate cancer is the number one cause of cancer for men in Bermuda — I moved here from London about two years ago and when I looked at the data it showed alarming rates.”

DailyMale’s free screening clinics covered 180 men, including men without health insurance, and caught undiagnosed cancers in the process.

Dr Makajuola said: “The partnership is a natural one.”

Upcoming screenings for heart and prostate health are at the Bermuda Industrial Union on May 18, St George’s Cricket Club on June 8, Bailey’s Bay Cricket Club on July 6, Warwick Workmen’s Club on September 21 and Somerset Cricket Club on October 19.

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Published May 02, 2024 at 8:02 am (Updated May 02, 2024 at 8:50 am)

Genetic cancer research to turn its sights on men

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