Michael Milken - Philanthropist, Financier, Medical Research Innovator, Public Health Advocate  

   Mikemilken.com  »  Articles  »  Update on Prostate Cancer

Update on Prostate Cancer
From Dr. Ernie Bodai's book,
I Flunked My PSA! What you need to know about prostate cancer.

By Michael Milken

This book contains hundreds of useful facts that will help you understand prostate cancer. But there's one overriding fact you should keep in mind a diagnosis of prostate cancer is never a reason to lose hope. Treatments are improving all the time. Millions of prostate-cancer survivors are living full, satisfying and productive lives.

I was diagnosed in 1993 and had already spent the better part of two decades learning about cancer and supporting a broad range of medical research through my family's foundation. Sadly, many members of my family had succumbed to various forms of cancer, including breast cancer and malignant melanoma. In thinking about what I could do that my relatives had not done, it became clear that they hadn't really taken charge of their cases, probably because they lacked sufficient information. And although it seemed that I had spent a lifetime dealing with cancer, I didn't have much information about prostate cancer. So I started studying the disease and soon learned about the challenges ahead.

In the United States, about 43,000 men died from prostate cancer in 1993. The death toll was expected to rise to 55,000 partly because of the continued increase in aging baby boomers. Newspapers and magazines carried relatively few articles about the disease. Young physicians and scientists were advised not to pursue careers in prostate cancer research because little money was available for their investigations. Doctors at comprehensive cancer centers rarely communicated their findings to each other. There were almost no clinical trials of new drugs and treatments. Researchers were often unable to obtain samples of tumors for testing new compounds. Nutrition as a field of serious research was largely ignored. Finally, like breast cancer a generation earlier, prostate cancer was still "in the closet," something that wasn't discussed in polite society.

Once the shock of my own diagnosis had subsided, I determined to do something about the situation. That was the beginning of Prostate Cancer Foundation (formerly CaP CURE), which started with a threefold mission: to support medical research that will translate into treatments and cures for a broad range of serious diseases; to advance understanding of all forms of human cancer; and to identify and support prostate cancer research with the potential to vanquish this devastating disease. We quickly hired a talented professional staff and began to figure out how to accelerate research, which was often bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape. We simplified and speeded up the grant process and gave the first of what are now nearly 1,000 research grants that have led to more than 80 human clinical trials of promising new treatments.

In 1994, Prostate Cancer Foundation hosted the first of its annual Scientific Retreats, now an important professional forum for researchers and clinicians from around the world. We've also been active in Washington by encouraging the exchange of information about cancer among all government branches. In 1995, we organized the first National Cancer Summit. Later, Congress passed legislation that speeds up approval of new drugs. In 1998, "The March: Coming Together to Conquer Cancer" drew hundreds of thousands of marchers to Washington and other cities to demonstrate for more research funding.

By 2001, government outlays for prostate cancer research reached $550 million, up from only $27 million in 1993. It is important to note, however, that medical research is not a zero-sum game where support for one disease area diminishes support of others. We should be working to conquer all serious diseases by funding basic research in addition to expanding the entire pie for applied research.

Today, young scientists and physicians entering the field of prostate cancer research have much broader options than just a decade ago. Prostate Cancer Foundation leads a Therapy Consortium in which research leaders exchange information several times a year. We've also established a nationwide tissue bank and helped identify families that carry useful cell lines. Our research has validated the worth of nutritional approaches by indicating strong associations between diet and cancer. More men are getting tested earlier and nearly 20,000 articles about prostate cancer are being published every year - an eight-fold increase over 1993. Our web site, www.prostatecancerfoundation.org, has become a valued resource for patients and for doctors and other professionals seeking the latest information on research progress.

But most importantly, all of this has contributed to a reduced death rate, down 28% to 31,500 in nine years. While we can't relax our efforts until the death rate drops to zero, you should know that the odds are improving every day. You can improve your own odds by using the information in this book to help you take charge of your treatments. Information is empowering and with Dr. Bodai's book, you have the power to work with your own doctor toward a successful outcome.