The Prostate Cancer Research Program

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The Prostate Cancer Research Program is run by the U.S. Army under the Department of Defense. Its origins are a classic Washington tale.

In 1992, women's advocacy groups for breast cancer research were putting pressure on the federal government to increase funding. Representative Patricia Schroeder, at that time, chaired the House Armed Services Committee, overseeing spending by the Department of Defense. Since expenditures for the National Cancer Institute were restricted by federal regulations, Schroeder arranged to give $25 million to the Army to coordinate additional breast cancer research. Over the next three years, Congress added $390 million more and asked the Institute of Medicine to evaluate the program. The evaluating committee published its report in 1997, calling the Department of Defense breast cancer research ''a unique and valuable entity,'' especially for its ''potential to focus on innovation, in ways that go beyond what traditional institutions like the National Institutes of Health are able to do.''3

Observing the success of the breast cancer lobby, advocates for prostate cancer research decided to follow suit. A dinner was arranged to which, according to one participant, ''several members of Congress were invited who just happened to have prostate cancer.'' In 1997 Congress allocated $45 million to the Department of Defense for what became known as the Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP).

Since 1997 Congress has continued to fund this research; in 2006, the allocation was $80 million. Through 2005, a total of over $600 million had been spent on more than fourteen hundred research projects. A prominent part of the program is the Center for Prostate Disease Research, an excellent clinical program for military veterans with prostate cancer directed by Col. David E. McLeod, M.D., at the Walter Reed National Medical Center. Another important component is a tissue bank in which blood and prostate tissue are collected from men with prostate cancer and then made available to researchers. A prostate cancer database registry that includes more than eleven thousand men with prostate cancer is also available to investigators. Whether the Prostate Cancer Research Program will ultimately be any more successful than the National Cancer Institute in funding innovative research or making a major breakthrough on prostate cancer remains to be ascertained, but to date it is well regarded by researchers in this field.

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