Sometimes when I need a lift I go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) website (prostatecancerfoundation.org) to see what research projects they are funding. (You go to PCF, click on “About us” and then “Where the money goes”.) Then I’m assured that some of the best minds in the best institutions are working hard to find a cure for prostate cancer.
PCF, founded by Michael Milken, is by far the world’s largest prostate cancer charity. They have raised more than $350 million for PC research and have funded 800 projects in 200 insitutions. Every year PCF awards a certain number of “Challenge Grants” to promising researchers. They have just announced this year’s winners who will share a pot of $19 million. PCF, maybe because it was founded by an entrepreneur, is very selective about the projects it funds. Their focus is on research that will yield results that are easily translatable to clinical practice. They state (on the PCF website):
Eight programs representing 18 leading research institutions and 36 researchers have been selected as part of the PCF’s 2008 Challenge Awards. These awards invest in larger, multi-year projects with high potential for solving problems associated with advanced prostate cancer.
If you are interested to know what is on the cutting edge, you should read about the winning research proposals on the PCF website or click on the above link. I am not posting the information here because it is too complicated for the average reader to understand. But I can tell you that the research being funded covers a broad array of topics, including nutrition, immunotherapy, biomarkers and stem cells. The stem cell research is particularly exciting because scientists have only recently discovered that cancer cells have stem cells at all, and they often survive and regenerate after the original cancer cells have been destroyed. At least this is something to work with. And the holy grail of PC research is to find biomarkers that separate aggressive cancers from indolent ones. So they will know which men actually need treatment.
Another exciting venture by the Milken Foundation that you should know about is “Faster Cures” (fastercures.org). This non-profit organization seeks to implement more entrepreneurial, creative models for bringing out new drugs. They are looking for venture capitalist types. Right now it takes about 17 years from the development of a drug to its actual debut in the marketplace. So Faster Cures gives money to researchers who can show that the projects they are working on can realistically be expected to produce results — sooner than later.
If you have been reading business publications, you will know that most of the blockbuster drugs that are being introduced these days are not coming from the big companies but from smaller biotech firms. I read in the Economist magazine that Big Pharma’s business model for bringing out new drugs is obsolete. They say that these companies are too top-heavy and risk averse. And instead of investing R&D money in innovative drugs, the big drug companies are producing “copycat” drugs — variations on drugs that already exist. For example, yet another statin.
Kathy Meade, a PC advocate and frequent contributor to the online forums, reported the other day that Faster Cures had just produced a “White Paper” (6/2/08) which is available for download. It’s called:
“Entrepreneurs for Cures: The Need for Innovative Approaches to Disease Research”
It is worth reading because it presents new, faster, paradigms for drug production. This is encouraging. You can also sign up for a newsletter on smartbrief.com, which will inform you, twice a week, of the latest developments in PC research.
So now that you know about the efforts being made in the world of PC research. I urge you to consider donating to PCF and Faster Cures. You can also contribute by giving a piece of yourself — literally. Faster Cures has a program called “Patients Helping Doctors” whose goal is to collect tissue and blood samples from patients to be stored in their “Biobank” and be made available to all researchers. You never know — you might be worth more than you think.