Dexter Scott King Dies at 62

By Pat Carragher - January 30, 2024

Dexter Scott King, youngest son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, died from prostate cancer last week. He was 62.

“The sudden shock is devastating,” Martin Luther King III, the older brother of Dexter King, said in a statement. “It is hard to have the right words at a moment like this. We ask for your prayers at this time for the entire King family.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. Many men with the disease have good outcomes during treatment and can live long, cancer-free lives. However, there are substantial cancer disparities with this disease. Black and African American men tend to have more aggressive disease and poorer outcomes.

“Black men tend to get diagnosed not only more frequently, but also at an earlier age,” said Dr. Kosj Yamoah, chair of the Radiation Oncology Department at Moffitt Cancer Center. “The median age for the disease is 68 years old. For men of African races, it’s around 62.”

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"Black men tend to get diagnosed not only more frequently, but also at an earlier age."

- Dr. Kosj Yamoah, Radiation Oncology Department

Men ages 45 to 75 should have a conversation with their doctor about the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening. African American and Black men, men with a family history of prostate cancer, and men with a family history of an at-risk genetic condition should begin screenings sooner.

Doctors typically determine how aggressive a tumor is based on an examination of tissue samples of cancer cells. The tissue samples are graded on a scale according to their appearance with Grade group 1 (Gleason score 6 or less) being nonaggressive through Grade group 5 (Gleason score of 10) being most aggressive.

Additional tests, such as bone, MRI and positron emission tomography scans, are also performed to determine whether the cancer has spread. But these tests do not always identify aggressive disease because they rely on features of the tumor cells and clinical factors, not on differences in tumor genomic patterns that are associated with poorer outcomes.

Yamoah is the principal investigator in the Moffitt-led VANDAAM study, the first prospective study to investigate genomic biomarkers in Black men with prostate cancer. Researchers are working to determine if the Decipher Prostate Genomic Classifier can help accurately categorize risk and help physicians select the appropriate treatment plan.

Decipher is a 22-gene prognostic biomarker that provides a low, intermediate or high genomic score indicating the aggressiveness of a patient’s cancer.

The study showed African American men were more than twice as likely to be reclassified with higher risk disease compared to non-African American men.

“This study revealed some interesting observations that help us begin to understand how to address the disparities from multiple angles,” Yamoah said. “Allowing increased access to care is a great equalizer to outcomes, but also understanding how to personalize the care to subsets of African American men who may have more aggressive disease will be the direction to attempt to eliminate racial disparities in prostate cancer.”

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