Prevailing in our War on Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is a formidable enemy. From the very beginning, it is "multifocal" -that is, it springs up in many places inside the prostate. A man with localized prostate cancer has an average of seven separate tumors growing all at once. Worse, that growth is silent. Symptoms for prostate cancer don't appear until the disease has advanced beyond our ability to cure it. And unless it is caught early, prostate cancer is difficult to cure.
It is also way too common. This year, an estimated 180,000 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 30,200 will die from it. We find those statistics unacceptable. Every scientist and physician here at the Brady Urological Institute is dedicated to eliminating the scourge of prostate cancer. We have declared war against it.
How do you fight a war? We are waging our investigative attack on prostate cancer from many fronts: Preventing cancer from developing, improving early diagnosis, reducing side effects of treatment, and discovering new ways to manage advanced disease. Our full-scale assault hinges on strong collaboration among urologists, basic scientists, medical and radiation oncologists from the Kimmel Cancer Center, and pathologists-our version of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines-and it has been unparalleled in its success.
Maybe the language of war sounds dramatic -until you talk to a patient with fear in his eyes, newly diagnosed with high-grade cancer, who holds his wife's hand for strength and comfort as they both think about the future. Or, as a doctor, you close your own eyes at the memory of how it often used to be, not so long ago-when you watched helplessly as one of your patients slipped away despite your best efforts, in agonizing pain because his disease was caught too late to be cured.
The great news at the Brady Urological Institute-it's in this issue, it's in the halls, laboratories, clinics, operating rooms and at the patient's bedside-is that, in the language of war, we are winning skirmishes and battles, pushing back the enemy's front lines, and changing the course of this disease.
But wars are expensive. In the past, we have relied upon grants from the National Institutes of Health, our main source of funding, and the revenue generated by professional fees. Our urologists at the Brady Urological Institute work for a salary, and for years, we have reinvested all of the extra money from professional fees into our mission of research. However, this fine luxury-this auxiliary "cushion" of research money from professional fees-has disappeared. Over the last decade, reimbursements have dwindled due to sharp cutbacks in Medicare reimbursements, and the increasing pervasiveness of HMOs. Fortunately, when our patients learned about this need, they responded with generous support and helped us build an endowment to provide the research income that has kept our mission going. Because of the philanthropy of our patients, we have been able to make progress faster than we ever could have using our resources alone. Thank you.
Urologist-in-chief Patrick C. Walsh, M.D., has always believed that the best way to tackle the multifaceted problem of prostate cancer is to hit it hard from every possible angle, by achieving a critical mass of brilliant minds-scientists and clinicians. It is through Dr. Walsh's vision that income from the Brady's endowment has supported scientists throughout Johns Hopkins who are working on prostate cancer.
Over the next several years, Dr. Walsh-after serving 30 years as chairman of the Brady Urological Institute-will relinquish his administrative duties to devote more time to seeing patients, operating, and teaching. In formal recognition of the winning philosophy that he has pursued for so many years-and to make certain that Dr. Walsh's vision continues -Johns Hopkins is developing the Patrick C. Walsh Prostate Cancer Research Fund. The change in leadership will not diminish the vigor of our war on prostate cancer. Indeed, we hope to raise $20 million for this fund by the time Dr. Walsh steps down as chairman. We invite all of Dr. Walsh's patients to participate in this initiative to honor him, and to further Hopkins' tremendous effort to defeat prostate cancer.
This research fund will support the work of scientists from all disciplines at Johns Hopkins who want to join our fight against prostate cancer. Although the fund will be held in the Brady Urological Institute, it will be overseen and administered by a scientific advisory board, composed of Hopkins medical and radiation oncologists, basic scientists, pathologists, and urologists. Each year, the fund will send out requests for research applications to scientists throughout Johns Hopkins. This fund will enable us to continue attracting the best scientific minds from basic sciences, and from other departments we have not yet tapped-scientists who may see an opportunity to apply some of their most recent findings to this field. In this way, we'll make the cure that we are all working so hard to attain happen even faster.