TMPRSS2:ERG Gene Fusions in Prostate Cancer of West African Men and a Meta-Analysis of Racial Differences

Am J Epidemiol. 2017 Dec 15;186(12):1352-1361. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwx235.


The prevalence of fusions of the transmembrane protease, serine 2, gene (TMPRSS2) with the erythroblast transformation-specific-related gene (ERG), or TMPRSS2:ERG, in prostate cancer varies by race. However, such somatic aberration and its association with prognostic factors have neither been studied in a West African population nor been systematically reviewed in the context of racial differences. We used immunohistochemistry to assess oncoprotein encoded by the ERG gene as the established surrogate of ERG fusion genes among 262 prostate cancer biopsies from the Ghana Prostate Study (2004-2006). Poisson regression with robust variance estimation provided prevalence ratios and 95% confidence intervals of ERG expression in relation to patient characteristics. We found that 47 of 262 (18%) prostate cancers were ERG-positive, and being negative for ERG staining was associated with higher Gleason score. We further conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of TMPRSS2:ERG fusions in relation to race, Gleason score, and tumor stage, combining results from Ghana with 40 additional studies. Meta-analysis showed the prevalence of TMPRSS2:ERG fusions in prostate cancer to be highest in men of European descent (49%), followed by men of Asian (27%) and then African (25%) descent. The lower prevalence of TMPRSS2:ERG fusions in men of African descent implies that alternative genomic mechanisms might explain the disproportionately high prostate cancer burden in such populations.

Keywords: TMPRSS2:ERG; West Africa; prostatic neoplasms; racial differences; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Comorbidity
  • Gene Fusion*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prevalence
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics*
  • Transcriptional Regulator ERG / genetics


  • ERG protein, human
  • Transcriptional Regulator ERG
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • TMPRSS2 protein, human