Report from AdMeTech: Legislators pledge funding for prostate cancer imaging research

September 20, 2007

Congressional support is growing for legislation that would authorize $650 million for prostate cancer imaging research and education.

Congressional support is growing for legislation that would authorize $650 million for prostate cancer imaging research and education.

Reps. Elijah Cummings and Albert Wynn, both Democrats from Maryland, have crafted a House version of the Prostate Research Imaging and Men's Education Act. It was introduced in the Senate in June by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) as S 1734. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and John Kerry (D-MA) are cosponsors.

The House bill would appropriate $130 million a year over five years to fund research and development of imaging technologies that diagnose and help treat prostate cancer. It also authorizes $10 million for an educational campaign to raise awareness about the life-saving role of prostate cancer screening.

Cummings and Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) had previously championed HR 353, which calls for increased federal research funding for prostate imaging. The House bill has 50 bipartisan cosponsors.

The AdMeTech Foundation, a prostate cancer advocacy group, backs the legislation.

"We will be making every effort to get fast legislative action," said Dr. Faina Shtern, president of the AdMeTech Foundation, during a press conference at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. "We will be calling to the formation of a prostate imaging coalition in support of imaging, image-guided treatment, and in vitro diagnostics."

One of six men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and one death every 20 minutes is attributed to the disease. Positive outcomes depend on catching disease early, but current tests to diagnose prostate cancer are unreliable. Stigma and confusion surround the disease and the detection tests, Wynn said at the press event. Radical costs to healthcare are another consideration.

Too few men are being diagnosed correctly, and most get diagnosed too late, particularly African Americans and Latinos, he said. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among African Americans, who also have the highest death rate from prostate cancer of any racial or ethnic group. A more accurate diagnostic technology would not only save lives but also drive medical costs down.

The proposed bill would ensure the type of technology necessary to accomplish that goal, Wynn said.

"We must demand, and we now have the ability, to have an increased federal role in prostate imaging comparable to what we did successfully in the 1990s to stimulate breast cancer imaging technologies," he said.

A strategic partnership comprising Congressional leadership, public and private investment, and advocacy support was responsible for the success of breast cancer imaging initiatives. The same model has been replicated to advance R&D programs in prostate cancer imaging technologies, Shtern said.

Advocacy support and education of Congressional leaders are critical components of this model, she said.

"They set off a virtuous cycle," Shtern said.