With $3 billion spent on the over-treatment of prostate cancer each year, new discoveries are prompting the prostate cancer community to Advance on Washington the week of September 13 – 18. This initiative calls for renewed commitments to finding answers that will enable physicians to cure more and over-treat less. The nation’s leading prostate cancer organizations today issued a five point plan, targeted to policymakers, to accelerate research and discovery of effective prostate cancer treatments.

“Prostate cancer research for patients is at a defining moment,” said Jonathan W. Simons, MD, president and CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF). “More progress has been achieved in 2010 so far than in the past decade. These advances mean we must redouble efforts to understand the genetic pathways of prostate cancer and fast-forward tailored treatments. For us, it’s crucial that policymakers in Washington understand the imperative and the necessary steps for success.”

One out of six American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. In 2010, it is projected that there will be more than 218,000 new prostate cancer cases and over 32,000 deaths from the disease. Following a 40 percent decline in the death rate in recent years, aging baby boomers are reversing the trend line and the number of projected deaths and new cases of prostate cancer has risen for the first time in nearly a decade.

The five point plan comes after recent advances in research that may be the “Rosetta Stone for prostate cancer,” unlocking one of the most persistent challenges in cancer care: how to effectively treat men who need aggressive treatment for their prostate cancer and how to identify those who have slow-growing cancer that can be safely monitored instead. The prostate cancer community calls for the following:

1. Increase the National Cancer Institute’s $5 billion annual budget to accelerate basic and treatment sciences research for human prostate cancer from $294 million to a transparent $400 million.

2. Increase the appropriation for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program for Prostate Cancer at the Department of Defense to $120 million from $80 million.

3. Establish an Office on Men’s Health (OMH) in the Department of Health and Human Services equivalent to The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) established in 1991.

4. Create a Prostate Cancer Scientific Advisory Board for the Office of the Chief Scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to accelerate real-time sharing of the latest research data and accelerate movement of new medicines to patients.

5. Create human capital by launching more careers of the best and brightest scientists in the U.S. to solve the prostate cancer problem.

Research led by investigators at the University of Michigan and published in the July 2010 issue of Nature Medicine, identified at least 24 different types of prostate cancer. Two of these types are highly aggressive forms of the disease that kill an estimated 3,600 of the more than 32,000 men who will die this year. This knowledge will guide research programs, providing further insight into the most appropriate treatment for each person and the tools to develop new medicines.

“By understanding the various genetic pathways of this disease, we have the potential to customize targeted treatment for every man with prostate cancer,” said Arul Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., University of Michigan.

This week is bringing hundreds of people –including prostate cancer researchers, advocates, celebrities, patients and their families–to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness for the disease and urge health leaders to action. The “Advance on Washington” features events and meetings hosted by PCF, ZERO – The Project to End Prostate Cancer, the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program and the Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN).

The University of Michigan study was funded by PCF, and scientists hope to use this landmark finding to make a difference in survival for patients with aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

“We’re achieving exciting new advances in understanding the makeup of each type of prostate cancer,” continued Simons. “Now is the time for our health leaders to intensify efforts and support for research so that we can translate this knowledge into increased survival and reduce unnecessary side effects for men who don’t need aggressive treatment.”