The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The 2013 PCRI Conference, How to Handle So Much New Information


Every year, it seems, the enthusiasm and excitement at the conference grows. Why?  Certainly Dr. Mark Moyad who moderates the conference, and the PCRI staff and I, who organize it, have grown from our experiences over the years. We are fine tuning and improving the agenda over time. But this isn’t the primary reason.

The prostate cancer world is changing, and changing quickly.  In the early years of putting a conference agenda together, I used to spend a lot of time “scrounging around the basement” to find content with high enough quality for presentation.  Back then the main treatments for early and advanced prostate cancer were surgery and chemotherapy respectively. Now for these same stages we have active surveillance and immunotherapy.

So the problem now – it is insufficient to do justice to all the new information in a two day conference. Nathan Roundy, one of our helpline volunteers, who recently returned to the PCRI from sabbatical, came up to me after the conference and said, “I can’t believe how much things have changed in just the last six months!”

The introductory comments I wrote in the conference syllabus convey some of these same thoughts about how the PCRI handles the massive overload of new information:

“Knowledge is power. And what you don’t know can indeed hurt you.  However, in this modern information age, the deluge of unfiltered data can be completely overwhelming. How can patients without professional training sort through it all out and distil a sensible plan of action?” 

No one can offer an easy solution.  The prostate cancer world is complex, and there are too many behind-the-scenes conflicts of interest to simply trust the first smiling doctor you encounter.  Although you can’t escape from the responsibility of doing your homework, you can make sure that you are registered ‘in the right classroom.’ 

The field of prostate cancer is vast, so the PCRI breaks the disease down into different categories, which we have termed Shades of Blue.  Failing to recognize the different Shades of prostate cancer is like wandering randomly between classrooms teaching totally different subjects. Is it any wonder there is so much confusion? Patients don’t need more information. They need personalized information—unbiased resources that are tailored to their specific disease category.”

Even though cancer is a serious subject, we had a lot of fun as well.  Ryan O’Neal came and shared his personal experience of having undergone focal cryotherapy with Dr. Duke Bahn. Dr. Mark Moyad and Ryan had a hilarious exchange culminating with Ryan giving Mark a kiss on the cheek.  Jerry Peters, our Grammy Award winning board member, along with his twelve-piece band, hosted a rocking evening at our Gala dinner Saturday night. Dr. David Hung, the CEO of Medivation, the manufacturer of Xtandi, gave a strikingly inspirational presentation concerning the acceleration of new drug development in the pharmaceutical world.

What a wonderful problem to have - with so many brand new treatments it’s hard to do justice to them in a two day conference.  The key is to recognize your shade of prostate cancer, identify the treatment options available based on that shade, and follow up with more research about those options.  The PCRI website is presently going through a major upgrade and will go live in the next week or so.  Check out when you get a chance.

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