Thomas A. Farrington
PHEN Founder and President
Good Morning and welcome to the Sixth Annual African American Prostate Cancer Disparity Summit.
I want to begin by thanking Congressman Gregory Meeks and his staff for making it possible for us to be at the United States Capitol and at the Washington Convention Center this year. I want to acknowledge our friends, partners and sponsors that have been with us for each summit along with all of this year?s participants, new attendees and partners. I especially want to thank my wife Juarez who is my lead partner in hosting this summit.
There are two worlds of prostate cancer in the United States. In one of these worlds, where I reside, men die at a rate 2.5 times higher than in the other world. This is not breaking news, but fact that has been well known for decades. When I founded PHEN in 2003 it was with the vision that we could eventually eliminate the African American prostate cancer disparity, and PHEN would contribute. When we held our very first summit in 2005 it was with the understanding that in order to realize our vision, we would have to bring the two worlds of prostate cancer together and lift every voice against a disease that takes too many lives and causes unnecessary suffering.
Progress is definitely being made in the fight against prostate cancer. This year we witnessed the approval of Provenge which opens a new door, not only for prostate cancer, but potentially for many other types of cancer as well. However, we are still not making progress at a rapid enough pace, and not nearly at the speed required to eliminate the African American crisis.
There are serious headwinds standing between us and more rapid progress in the fight against prostate cancer. The ongoing and never ending screening debate is an issue that has hijacked our fight. It is negatively impacting the resources we need for research and therefore reducing the progress towards new treatments, and it is confusing the men most at risk for the disease. Prostate cancer is a health, political, and economic issue. We are losing the political battle largely based on economic grounds, and the health gains (higher cure rates, reduction in mortality and incidence rates) are all at risk.
As we stand in the United States Capitol today, let us resolve not to give up the gains we have made in the fight against prostate cancer but stiffen our backs and be determined to win the political battle at hand. Any gains that are lost, I fear, will only worsen the African American crisis and increase the disparity. To win the prostate cancer political battle, I will reiterate that we must all come together and lift every voice of those impacted by the disease. The African American voice has not been heard with nearly the force that can and should be ringing throughout this country, and it?s because the two worlds of prostate cancer have been separate. PHEN is intent and committed to helping bring these two worlds together for the benefit of all.
PHEN summits have made significant progress in educating our political leaders about prostate cancer and gaining their active support; being here at the U.S. Capitol speaks to this progress. Past summits have succeeded in bringing African American survivors together with doctors and researchers face to face to discuss strategies, philosophies and needs. We have now established the foundation needed to accelerate progress, and that is the aim of this sixth annual summit.
The sessions today will focus on where we are headed in prostate cancer research, clinical trials and new treatments and how this is likely to impact on eliminating the African American disparity. I believe there should be a clear, delineated and priority focus on addressing the African American crisis in this country?s research efforts and black men should be fairly represented in all prostate cancer clinical trials. Is it possible to seriously discuss eliminating a disease without a major focus on those most impacted by that disease? I feel that Black America will become a strong and impactful advocate for expanded prostate cancer research and increased spending by being involved in all aspects of these efforts.
Also today, PHEN will proudly recognize some of those special individuals that have made outstanding contributions to our progress and to the fight against prostate cancer. This is our first recognition event and I am very excited for the opportunity to host some of our heroes.
Tomorrow the summit will turn its attention to strategies for reaching the communities that are suffering with a prostate cancer crisis. Through our first annual Father?s Day Rally in partnership with churches this year we significantly enhanced our community grassroots efforts. The men within these communities are those that are most in need of knowledge to beat the disease and they are the men that must become knowledgeable about clinical trials and treatments and also get involved and raise their voices to help win the political battles that we face.
The 2010 summit aims to help forge a seamless understanding and relationship from the laboratory, the biotechs and treatment centers to the communities most in need of the prostate cancer research and treatment breakthroughs. Such a relationship will bring the two worlds of prostate cancer together and allow us all to continue along a path of progress with a greater sense of urgency and increased power.