Category: For Policy-Makers

Consumer Reports® and Prostate Cancer

The November 14, 2014 edition of the Consumer Reports® magazine has a very interesting article entitled “It’s Time to Get Mad About the Outrageous Cost of Health Care”. It is also available on line here.

We were particularly impressed with “Outrage No. 3 – Pushing the New and Flashy”, on page 43.

There are two points in this section that apply directly to the mission of our foundation.

First, this statement: “Medical science still has little idea which treatments work best for the disease…”. It was this problem, specifically, that motivated the formation of the Prostate Cancer Results Study Group and the process they use to compare treatment results. After reviewing over 28,000 published studies, and consolidating the results into an easy-to-use comparison tool, published on this website, we can confidently assert that we now have more information about which treatments work best than ever before, information critical to every man faced with making a treatment decision.

The second point that we found interesting is the example of the marketing value of an expensive machine that is perceived as providing superior results for prostate cancer treatment, without sufficient evidence of proof.

When centers invests millions of dollars to acquire a new technology such as the robotic surgery example mentioned in the article, or a proton particle accelerator, they are under intense economic pressure to pay for, and profit from, its use. The centers’ incentive is to encourage treatment recommendations that are in the centers’ interest, but not necessarily the patient’s.

Here at the Prostate Cancer Treatment Research Foundation, we work hard to bring unbiased and up-to-date information about prostate cancer treatment to patients. Much like Consumer Reports®, we seek out this information, make comparisons, and publish the results so that prostate cancer patients and their loved-ones, can make informed decisions.

Each patient is an individual, and each case is different. We are not in the business of offering medical advice; that is best left to you and your doctor. If you doctor is “selling” a particular treatment, that does not mean it is wrong for you, or that you should avoid it, but it is important to know that you have a choice.

We want every prostate cancer patient to have the basic information about how treatments compare so that he can answer his most important question: how well does each treatment do in preventing a recurrence of the cancer?

If you or someone you know has just been diagnosed, please see our For Patients page to get started.

If you agree with the Consumer Reports® article, and would like to help other men with prostate cancer, click here: I would like to help this important work.

PCRI Conference – 2014

Posted by Fred Owen

I was very honored to represent the foundation by hosting an exhibit of the study results at the recent Prostate Cancer Research Institute annual conference in Los Angeles.

This annual event conference is the leading education and support conference for prostate cancer patients and their caregivers. It is a full weekend of educational sessions by a very prominent faculty, including an opportunity for very engaging question and answer sessions with many of the presenters. We were fortunate to have our exhibit space right next to the Q&A area, so we were able to watch the fast-paced interaction between patients and their caregivers with some of the formost experts in prostate cancer treatment including PCRSG panel members Dr. Anthony Zietman and Dr. Mark Scholz.

Many of the patients that we talked with were excited about the new web site and the interactive charts. Even those fighting advanced disease, because their cancer had come back, were anxious to get this information to their support groups, in order to improve the chances of new patients that are showing up at their meetings.

I was excited to meet with Tom Kirk, president of Us Too, the biggest national support group for prostate cancer, about making our study results available to each of their local chapters. We also were able to connect and begin dialog with Gene Van Vleet, Chief Operating Officer of the Informed Prostate Cancer Support Group in San Diego, one of the recipients of this year’s Harry Pinchot award.

I was very pleased to meet Joel Nowak, Director of Advocacy and Advanced Disease at Malecare, a prominent advocate for advanced cancer patients and the other recipient of this year’s Harry Pinchot award.

A big “thank you” to all of the people that came by our table to tell their story, and to offer support for the foundation and all of the men fighting this disease.

Proton Therapy in the News

The case of young British patient Ashya King has caught the attention of the world.

At issue is the parent’s request for proton beam therapy to treat in their son’s medulloblastoma, a serious form of brain cancer. This tragic case touches on many important subjects, including a parent’s right to seek a particular treatment, and the UK medical community response to their actions.

While the Prostate Cancer Treatment Research Foundation focuses on evaluating the various treatments for prostate cancer, this news caught our attention because of the inaccuracy of statement making its way into many of the news reports. Here is one from USA Today:

Proton beam therapy is a targeted type of radiation treatment that increases the chance of killing cancer cells by sending a higher dose of radiation directly to the tumor.

Unlike other types of cancer treatment, it doesn’t indiscriminately kill surrounding healthy tissue, so there could be fewer long term effects.

The Prostate Cancer Treatment Research Foundation’s Medical Director, Dr. Peter Grimm, responds:

Protons are not discriminate. They kill normal cells along with cancer cells therefor, healthy tissue is affected around the tumor. Radiation treatment of all types is designed to treat the areas directly beyond the tumor in this, and other, cancers, in order to kill microscopic disease that extends beyond the visible tumor.

It is impossible not to treat some healthy tissue no matter what the type of cancer or where it is located. In certain situations it allows for a higher dose to be delivered to the tumor compared to conventional radiation but in the case of prostate cancer, this is not the case

This case highlights the importance of having accurate, unbiased information when considering any treatment method. For prostate cancer, the interactive comparison charts available on the foundation website are derived from over 1,100 published, peer-reviewed articles, and show the relative effectiveness of a variety of treatments, including proton therapy.