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Prostate Cancer Foundation Invests in Young Investigators

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) boosted its efforts to encourage young investigators to focus on cancer research by awarding $4.5 million in research grants to 21 young investigators at cancer centers in the U.S. and Canada.

PCF began its Young Investigator Awards program in 2008 and has awarded 43 three-year grants in the past two years. Award recipients are generally 35 years old or younger, have achieved junior faculty positions and are committing their lives to prostate research. The mission of the program is to “identify a cohort of future research leaders who will keep the field of prostate cancer research vibrant with new ideas.”

“There was internationally a shortage of young transformational scientists. Most transformational research ideas come from people under 30,” said PCF president and CEO Jonathan Simons, M.D.

The latest recipients work at research centers in New York, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, Washington and British Columbia, Canada. The foundation awarded $225,000 total to each recipient, who also received a matching contribution from his or her respective research institution. The award provides recipients with three years of funding for transformational research in prostate cancer patients.

For the 2010 awards, PCF received 76 applications from eight countries, and proposals focused on 16 different areas of prostate cancer research.

“The global competition really brought out particularly ingenious ideas,” Simons said. “Of the 70-plus [grants] that we got, at least 30 you would remember a month and a half later. The quality of the thinking about the problem in a new way was perceptibly higher.”

Founded in 1993 as the largest philanthropic organization focused on prostate cancer research, PCF has raised nearly $400 million and provided funding to more than 1,500 researchers. PCF also funds a network of 13 U.S. cancer centers to help speed patient enrollment in prostate cancer clinical trials. This network—named the Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Consortium (PCCTC)—is a joint effort with the U.S. Department of Defense and fulfills a congressional directive to create a clinical trial instrument dedicated to accelerating patient enrollment in early-phase, multicenter prostate cancer studies.

“[When the consortium was founded in 2006], there really wasn’t access to new molecules. The therapy consortium was created literally to permit academic centers to partner with each other and collaborate to add patients to phase I/II trials. It was established in a way that both the NCI [National Cancer Institute] and biotech and pharma sponsors could do trials where the research nurses, the data managers, were significantly supported by the foundation—we just got data sooner,” Simons said.

Through September 2008, PCCTC had initiated seven trials and enrolled 1,282 patients at member sites. The member organizations have a centralized budget and standard operating procedures and use a shared clinical trial management system for protocol tracking, electronic data capture and data storage.

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