News Release 

Researchers find link between exposure to world trade center dust and prostate cancer

The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine

(New York, NY - June 20, 2019) -- World Trade Center (WTC) responders with prostate cancer showed signs that exposure to dust from the World Trade Center site had activated chronic inflammation in their prostates, which may have contributed to their cancer, according to a study by Mount Sinai researchers in Molecular Cancer Research in June.

Inflammation has long been considered an important factor in prostate cancer progression. Researchers looked at the inflammatory and immune systems of World Trade Center responders to help prevent new prostate cancer cases in that group and to understand how other large-scale environmental exposures to multiple carcinogens may develop into cancer.

This is the first study of people who were exposed to the WTC dust and who subsequently developed prostate cancer. This research and further study of the expression of genes and pathways in other patients whose environmental exposures caused inflammation could lead to clinical trials that offer anti-inflammatory or immune-targeted therapies in similar cases.

"World Trade Center responders show an overall increase in cancer incidence, and specifically of certain cancer types such as prostate cancer," said Emanuela Taioli, MD, PhD, Director of the Institute for Translational Epidemiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Associate Director for Population Science at The Tisch Cancer Institute. "It is important to address the reasons why this is happening in order to prevent new cases in this aging cohort. Our findings represent the first link between exposure to World Trade Center dust and prostate cancer."

This work pairs data from first responders and from a study of rats exposed to actual dust from Ground Zero. The dust samples, which contain metals and organic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyl, are unique because they are the only existing samples taken on September 11, 2001. All other dust samples were collected after a significant storm on September 14, 2001.

Both the human and rat prostate cancer tissues show an increase in cells that indicate inflammation, specifically immune cells called T helper cells. Studies of the rat tissue and prostate cancer tissue samples taken from responders indicated to the Mount Sinai researchers that chronic inflammation started occurring in the prostate after exposure to the World Trade Center dust, and that inflammation may have contributed to prostate cancer.

"Several years ago, I saw a first responder in his 40s who began having symptoms of prostatitis, a painful condition that involves inflammation of the prostate, soon after exposure to the World Trade Center dust," said William Oh, MD, Chief of the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Deputy Director at The Tisch Cancer Institute. "He ultimately developed a high-grade prostate cancer several years later. It suggested to me that there might be a link between his exposure and cancer, but I knew that I would need to examine it systematically."

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This study was sponsored by grants from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest integrated delivery system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai's vision is to produce the safest care, the highest quality, the highest satisfaction, the best access and the best value of any health system in the nation. The Health System includes approximately 7,480 primary and specialty care physicians; 11 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 410 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. The Icahn School of Medicine is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools", aligned with a U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" Hospital, No. 12 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding, and among the top 10 most innovative research institutions as ranked by the journal Nature in its Nature Innovation Index. This reflects a special level of excellence in education, clinical practice, and research. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 18 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of top U.S. hospitals; it is one of the nation's top 20 hospitals in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Nephrology, and Neurology/Neurosurgery, and in the top 50 in six other specialties in the 2018-2019 "Best Hospitals" issue. Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital also is ranked nationally in five out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked 11th nationally for Ophthalmology and 44th for Ear, Nose, and Throat. Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Mount Sinai St. Luke's, Mount Sinai West, and South Nassau Communities Hospital are ranked regionally.

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