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Prostate Cancer Care Legislation Would Fund Lifesaving Imaging Research

Armen Hareyan's picture

In response to the rising epidemic of prostate cancer in America and the lack of accurate diagnostic tools that cost lives and the nation's health care system billions annually, U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Albert Wynn (D-MD) will co-sponsor legislation that would fund the development of technological advances in the fight against a disease that kills one man every 18 minutes.

Prostate cancer is diagnosed in at least one in six American men -- a higher incidence rate than women diagnosed with breast cancer -- yet advanced diagnostic imaging technologies comparable to mammograms remain unavailable.

"Current diagnostic tools for prostate cancer are grossly inadequate," said Angelo De Marzo, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, oncology and urology at Johns Hopkins University, who joined Reps. Cummings and Wynn at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "They often produce inconclusive or misleading results, leading to widespread unnecessary treatment that can cause complications and ratchet up our nation's ever-growing health care costs."

The AdMeTech Foundation, an organization dedicated to facilitating the development of advanced technologies that lead to greater accuracy in detecting and diagnosing prostate cancer, hosted the press conference announcing Rep. Cummings and Wynn's legislation that would authorize $650 million for appropriation to the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for prostate cancer imaging research and education. A Senate version of the bill, known as the Prostate Research Imaging and Men's Education Act, or PRIME Act (S. 1734), was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in June.

"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 Rep. Cummings. "Current treatment for prostate cancer costs our health care 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 this legislation, along with Senator Boxer's PRIME Act, can put light at the end of this dark tunnel."

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"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 health care system. Prostate cancer is an epidemic in this country and we have a moral imperative to effectively address this health care crisis impacting men and in particular, the African-American male," said Rep. Wynn.

Current studies indicate African-American males have a 60 percent higher incidence rate for prostate cancer and more than a 100 percent higher mortality rate.

Prostate cancer care is in a crisis

Diagnostic tools for prostate cancer are severely lacking. In fact, when prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test results are abnormal, approximately 88 percent of men -- or 1 million a year -- undergo unnecessary biopsies, yet end up not having prostate cancer. Current testing through multiple biopsies misses at least 20 percent of prostate cancers, and the tests often underestimate the cancer's aggressiveness.

These consequences take their toll on America's health care system. False diagnostic alarms cost more than $2 billion annually in health care expenses from unnecessary and traumatic biopsies.

"Advanced imaging and in vitro diagnostic technologies will profoundly impact quality of care, quality of life and health care costs, but federal support is needed to bring these emerging technologies to patients," said Faina Shtern, M.D., president and CEO of the nonprofit AdMeTech Foundation and director of research at the radiology department of Children's Hospital at Harvard Medical School.

"Federal support brought breast cancer imaging to the forefront in the 1990s, and we salute Representatives Cummings and Wynn for helping create similar possibilities for men."