Dynamist Blog

Fighting Cancer

Fortune features an interesting article on how Michael Milken has jump-started research on prostate cancer. Here's an excerpt:

Eleven years later many others are listening too. That's because Milken has, in fact, turned the cancer establishment upside down. In the time it normally takes a big pharmaceutical company to bring a single new drug to market, Milken has managed to raise the profile of prostate cancer significantly, increase funding dramatically to fight the disease, spur innovative research, attract new people to the field, get myriad drugs into clinical trials, and, dare we say, speed up science. Milken's philanthropy, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, formerly called CaP Cure, has raised $210 million from its founding in 1993 through 2003 (the latest audited figures), making it the world's largest private sponsor of prostate cancer research.

That all-fronts effort, say numerous experts interviewed by FORTUNE, has been a significant factor in reducing deaths and suffering from the disease. The progress on this bottom line, in fact, has been stunning. In 1993 some 34,900 Americans died of prostate cancer; this year the figure is estimated to be 29,900, despite the fact that the population has grown 11% since then. That translates to a 24% drop in per capita death rates. (The National Cancer Institute, which adjusts its figures to minimize the effects of the aging population, calculates the decline at 26%.) What makes the improvement all the more remarkable is that the incidence of prostate cancer rises markedly with age--70% of cases are diagnosed in men over 65, for example. And today there are 1.6 million more men over 65 than there were ten years ago. Indeed, the drop in the prostate cancer death rate is four times the decline in overall cancer rates during the past decade.

For more on the subject, or to subscribe to an excellent news-summary email newsletter, go to FasterCures.org.

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