During Men’s Health Month, as throughout the year, it’s important to consider the impact of one of the most common health concerns for men – prostate cancer. Prostate cancer affects the lives and families of millions of men in the United States; one in every six men will be diagnosed with this disease. In 2013 alone, approximately 240,000 American men will be diagnosed and an estimated 30,000 men will die from prostate cancer. Particularly important for the military, active duty males are twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as their civilian counterparts.1
Although prostate cancer is commonly thought to be a disease of only older men, there is increasing awareness that men can be stricken with prostate cancer much earlier -- in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, with major consequences for both their professional and family lives. Moreover, in addition to the tremendous impact of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment on the lives of these men, there is a significant economic impact on our national and military budgets, much of which could be avoided with a better understanding of the disease and how best to manage it.
Since 1997, the DoD Prostate Cancer Research Program has been addressing these challenges. The PCRP, initiated by Congress to fund discovery-driven and high-impact research on prostate cancer, and managed by the USAMRMC through the office of the CDMRP, targets the most critical needs and creates funding opportunities to address them. Through the expertise of world-renowned scientists collaborating with prostate cancer patients and advocate leaders, the program currently funds research designed to 1) reduce overdiagnosis (i.e., diagnosing a disease that would never need treatment) by developing better tools to detect only clinically relevant disease, 2) reduce unnecessary treatment and its negative side effects by distinguishing aggressive from indolent disease at diagnosis, and 3) reduce death by developing more effective treatments and addressing mechanisms of resistance for men with high risk or advanced prostate cancer. In addition, each of these efforts is carried out with attention to striking disparities in the impact of prostate cancer, in which African American men experience 2.5 times greater risk of prostate cancer death compared to Caucasian men.
The PCRP has supported 1,995 researchers at 374 different institutions, all working toward the same goal: conquering prostate cancer. One group of these researchers and institutions, known as the Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Consortium, has been supported by the PCRP since 2006 and is comprised of 13 leading cancer centers throughout the country. The PCCTC investigators bring together their expertise and resources to collaboratively design, implement and complete phase I and phase II trials to rapidly bring scientific discoveries to patients. In its relatively short time in existence, the PCCTC has already brought nine new drugs toward Phase III clinical trials, three of which are now approved for prostate cancer treatment: abiraterone (ZYTIGA®), enzalutamide (XTANDI®), and alpharadin (Xofigo®).
The PCRP also supports even earlier drug development through its Laboratory-Clinical Transition Awards, which fund investigators at a phase of research when funding is typically difficult to obtain, pushing new drugs through the required steps before they can be made available to patients through clinical trials.
Importantly, to ensure that improvements for prostate cancer patients are always at the center of the PCRP’s efforts and that patients have timely information on current research advancements, the program partners with many prostate cancer advocacy organizations including the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the Prostate Net, ZERO: The Project to End Prostate Cancer, Us TOO International, Malecare, the Prostate Health Education Network, and state prostate cancer coalitions, to name a few.
Through facilitating new discoveries and translating them into patient benefit, the PCRP is making a major impact towards achieving its mission to eliminate death from prostate cancer and enhance the well-being of men experiencing the impact of the disease.
For more information on the DoD Prostate Cancer Research Program, please visit the CDMRP website at http://cdmrp.army.mil/pcrp/default.shtml.
1 Zhu K, Devesa SS, Wu H, et al. 2009. Cancer incidence in the U.S. military population: comparison with rates from the SEER program. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 18:1740-45.