12 US Representatives request greater focus on prostate-specific imaging research

On March 23, the following letter was sent by several members of the US House of Representatives to the acting director of the National Institutes of Health and the director of the National Cancer Institute:

Raynard S. Kington, MD, PhD
Acting Director, National Institutes of Health
One Center Drive, Room 126
Bethesda, MD 20892

John E. Niederhuber, MD
Director, National Cancer Institute
31 Center Drive, Room 11A48
Bethesda, MD 20892

Dear Directors Kington and Niederhuber:

Now that President Barack Obama has signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, your agencies will receive an additional $8.2 billion in funding for critical biomedical research. We urge you to devote some of these funds to research to improve prostate-specific imaging technology for improved early diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. This research holds enormous promise to drastically reduce human and societal costs of prostate cancer, yet has received minimal support in prior years.

Prostate cancer is the most common major cancer in this country and the second most lethal cancer in men.  While it can be cured when diagnosed early, close to 30,000 American men will die from prostate cancer in 2009. Many of us in Congress and millions throughout the country have been personally affected by prostate cancer or had a loved one suffer from it. While this disease has a higher incidence rate than breast cancer, there has not been a similar level of funding. And, in fact, funding for prostate cancer research has decreased over the last six years. Accurate diagnostic technologies comparable to life-saving mammograms still remain unavailable for men, yet the promise of prostate imaging technology is real and immediate. In January, leading experts from around the world stated in a joint letter that they “firmly believe that more accurate imaging technology would lead to better patient care, including guidance for diagnosis, biopsy and minimally-invasive therapy. Real and important improvement in prostate cancer care are at hand if we are resolved to increase national investment in prostate diagnostics.

The leadership of NIH in the advancement of breast imaging technologies resulted in the transformation of diagnosis and minimally-invasive treatment of breast cancer. Your agency should now lead the way in creating accurate and affordable prostate imaging tools for men for prostate cancer detection and minimally-invasive treatment. With such technologies, men and their families would face less physical, emotional, and financial trauma. Moreover, improved diagnostics could eliminate unnecessary biopsies and treatment and it is estimated it could result in savings of $5 billion for national health care each year — an enormous return-on-investment for the research commitment we seek today.

Last June, the House unanimously approved House Resolution 353 calling for “increased support for research and development of advanced imaging technologies for prostate cancer detection and treatment.” Now, we have given you new resources to accomplish this worthy goal. The medical research community is more than “shovel ready” to put these resources to work. We hope that you will increase significantly the amount of funding for prostate imaging research aimed at early detection and improved treatment of the second most lethal cancer in men.


Elijah E. Cummings, Henry A. Waxman, Dan Burton, Donna M. Christensen, Danny K. Davis, Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Keith Ellison, Michael E. Capuano, Dennis Moore, Jim Marshall, Tim Holden, Robert Wexler

5 Responses

  1. THE issue – the place the money should go.

  2. Well, imaging is one of the places the money should go. The other is into tests that can differentiate aggressive from indolent (purely pathological) cancer. If we could do that we wouldn’t have to bother about eliminating indolent cancer that’s never going to bother the patient.

  3. I’d hope that they could be one in the same: that docs could tell by looking — if they had a better way to look.

    Without an intense program to educate people that prostate cancer is usually not like most other cancers (any advocates want to step up to the plate for that pitch?) you’re still going to bother the patient — too many relatives dead from breast cancer, lymphoma, lung cancer, melanoma, etc. — even in families where most die from cardiacs.

  4. I cannot imagine any way in which an imaging test would be able to differentiate between cancers of different grades. That is not possible for any form of cancer that I am aware of.

  5. I thought that higher grade prostate cancers tend to come back as more solid returns even using today’s ultrasound technology, and was hoping that there would be a “next step.”

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