US representatives call for more funding for prostate cancer
18 February 2008
Over 20 US representatives have urged the US
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and National Institutes of
Health (NIH) to assign an "explicit high priority" for research and
development to improve early detection and treatment of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer treatment costs the US health service billions of dollars
and due to lack of accurate diagnostic technologies results in about a
million unnecessary biopsies each year. It strikes a man every 2.5 minutes
and kills a man every 18 minutes.
Prostate cancer has become more common than breast cancer, yet advanced
diagnostic imaging technologies comparable to mammograms remain unavailable.
In a letter sent to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt and NIH Director Elias
Zerhouni, the representatives state: "Life-saving breakthroughs in
screening, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer resulted from the
development of advanced imaging technologies led by the Federal Government.
It is now time for our Government to lead the way so that men will have
accurate and affordable prostate cancer screening exams and similar
minimally-invasive treatment tools."
"The funding of imaging research that
will lead to more accurate detection and diagnoses of prostate cancer could
eventually save tens of thousands of lives a year," said Representative
Elijah Cummings who coordinated the letter initiative.
"Current treatment for prostate cancer costs our healthcare system $8
billion a year, and an additional $2 billion is spent on unnecessary
biopsies. Sadly, it's also spent on care for those whose diagnosis was
missed and who are in the end stages of this deadly disease. We know we are
within reach of developing state-of-the-art imaging technology, and making
federal funding for this kind of research a priority will give men the
information they need to make informed decisions about their health."
Prostate cancer care crisis
The lack of reliable diagnostic tools is
leading to a crisis in care for a disease that can be cured if detected
early. This is the sad reality for every American man who faces
screening for prostate cancer; however, it is particularly devastating for
African American males who have significantly higher incidence and mortality
Existing tests, including the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test and
biopsies, miss cancers and/or underestimate their aggressiveness and thus
lead to failed clinical interventions in as many as in 1 in 2 men. Even when
PSAs are abnormal, approximately 88% of men — 1 million per year — undergo
unnecessary biopsies and end up not having prostate cancer.
Since the current diagnostic tools cannot reliably distinguish aggressive
from low-risk prostate cancer, many men undergo unnecessary, costly
treatments that cause complications, such as impotence and incontinence.
"Advanced imaging technologies will arm physicians with critical information
required to improve quality of care and reduce healthcare costs," said Faina
Shtern, MD, president and CEO of the nonprofit AdMeTech Foundation. "Federal
support made it possible to advance breast cancer imaging, which transformed
early detection and treatment of breast cancer. We salute the US Congress
for helping create similar possibilities for men."
Diagnosis research a
In calling for increased funding, the representatives are
echoing the principles of the Prostate Research, Imaging and Men's Education
Act, or PRIME Act (S. 1734/ HR. 3563). This is legislation currently
sponsored in both houses of the US Congress that calls for increased funding
for prostate cancer diagnostic technology.
The PRIME Act would dedicate
$650 million to develop the detection technology and educational resources
needed to gain the upper hand in the battle against prostate cancer.
PRIME Act is crucial to the long-term health of American men," said
Representative Dan Burton. "We know that when detected and treated early,
prostate cancer has a cure rate of over 90%. It is time for the federal
government to make an investment in the technology that will give physicians
the tools they need to end blind patient care."
"This legislation is a
prime example of how taxpayer dollars, put to the right use, can positively
impact millions of lives and eliminate billions of dollars from an already
strained healthcare system. Prostate cancer is an epidemic in this country
and we have a moral imperative to effectively address this healthcare crisis
impacting men and in particular, the African-American male," said Rep. Wynn.
The representative's letter can be downloaded as a PDF file from :
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