Keeping funding for the DoD’s prostate cancer research initiatives on track

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate approved legislation that will probably keep funding for the Prostate Cancer Research Program of the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program fully intact for 2013 (subject, of course, to the issue of “sequestration” — otherwise known as “the S word”). However, we need help for 2014!

The relevant U.S. House committees are now gearing up for fiscal year 2014. The Defense Subcommittee has a member request deadline of April 10.  Representatives Pete King (R, NY) and Sanford Bishop (D, GA) have sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter asking the House Appropriations Committee to fund the Prostate Cancer Research Program again in 2014 — which will provide critically needed funding of $70 million to continue to provide research grants for that year.

Prostate Cancer International and other members of the Prostate Cancer Roundtable are encouraging all U.S. voters to  write their House Representatives in Congress now and ask them to sign on to this “Dear Colleague” letter.  Obviously you can do this yourself, but for those who are less experienced it may be helpful to use the template letter provided on ZERO’s “Capwiz” system. You can customize this letter to express your own points of view and have the letter delivered promptly to your Congressman and his staff by e-mail.

Please take this opportunity to write your Congressman or Congresswoman. Tell him or her just how important prostate cancer research is for you and how much the DoD’s Prostate Cancer Research Program has made a difference in the development of new drugs like abiraterone actetate, enzalutamide, ARN-509, and others still in the pipeline. We need that $70 million to keep the advances is prostate cancer research on track.

Note also that, at some point in the future, we’ll let you know about writing to your senator too. At present we need you to focus entirely on your Congressman or Congresswoman in the House of Representative. If you don’t know who that is, just go to the ZERO “Capwiz” site, plug in your ZIP code, and the system will let you know who to write to automatically!

One Response


    Here are some additional credits for the PCRP that may help inform Congressional and others connected with funding.

    The consortium consists of a group of institutions who have banded together, overcoming institutional obstacles and issues (such as intellectual property rights) to establish and operate a much faster, more efficient, and more effective clinical trial system. The Prostate Cancer Research Program (under the DoD-managed Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program) joined the Prostate Cancer Foundation to fund the consortium. The consortium met a crying need for cooperation and affordable infrastructure to support clinical trials. In 1996 the Prostate Cancer Foundation funded six centers for trial infrastructure development and collaboration, with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Dr. Howard Scher as the titular leader. The PCRP chipped in during the 2004/2005 timeframe, enabling expansion to 13 major centers, with MSKCC and Dr. Scher formalizing their leading roles after a competition.

    The consortium has already notched amazing successes, moving new drugs from research bench to bedside with extraordinary speed. The consortium was the subject of a plenary presentation at the 2011 IMPaCT Conference (Innovative Minds in Prostate Cancer Today, the second conference in the series after the 2007 conference), which highlighted research in the PCRP program since the first conference. The presentation was entitled “The Process of Basic Research to Phase III Trials”, and was moderated by Dr. Howard Soule. Here is the link to the URL for the presentation. The consortium was also the subject of a poster presentation P4-3 at the conference (which may also be available online).

    Dr. Maha Hussain, a renowned prostate cancer researcher/physician, pointed out there had been only nine FDA approvals of products for treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer in the previous 15 years. She reviewed progress under the consortium, including 133 letters of intent for concepts with 106 of those approved, leading to 84 activated clinical trials, with 36 open and enrolling and 48 trials actually completed! Eight agents went to Phase III trials. Key accomplishments included enrollment of 2,532 patients in Phase I and II trials; that’s a remarkable feat for a relatively small program that was still able to enroll patients equivalent in Phase I and II trials to more than 26% of the number industry enrolls in trials and 13% of NIH sponsored enrollees. More than 60 drugs have been evaluated, and eight agents had moved to Phase III trials as of the date of the IMPaCT conference in 2011.

    The breakthrough research by the UCLA team on pomegranate for prostate cancer was funded under the PCCTC. Both Zytiga (abiraterone) and Xtandi (enzalutamide, MDV3100) were first investigated under the PCCPT. These two outstanding drugs are examples of the great promise of the PCCTC in bringing drugs rapidly through the trials process.

    As a separate aspect of success under the Prostate Cancer Research Program, denosumab was supported by program funding and was later approved by the FDA.

    There have been other successes, but to me these are standout examples.

    I believe it is important that our legislators understand that the “high risk/high reward” funding strategy employed by the PCRP is working very well, producing what many of us consider amazing results and a wonderful return on investment.

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