Health awareness

Taking prostate cancer research forward

May 18, 2020

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Almost everyone knows somebody living with prostate cancer.

But the people we know are not just a statistic or a number. They are our partners, fathers, sons and brothers. They are our families fighting to hang on to their dreams for the future. And that’s who we’re fighting for, too – aggressively building our prostate cancer research program day in and day out to help advance new treatments for men who are running out of options and time.

“As with any cancer, there’s a wide spectrum of clinical settings in prostate cancer and outcomes can vary between those with early versus later stage disease,” says Dr. Peter Kang, scientific associate vice president, clinical research, Merck Research Laboratories. “Men with advanced prostate cancer face a poorer prognosis and have limited options, which is what drives us to do more for them.”

About one out of nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. It is more likely to develop in men who are 65 or older, as well as among those with African ancestry or a family history of the disease. Several inherited genetic mutations – such as those of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes – can increase prostate cancer risk.

“Having first-hand clinical experiences with patients with prostate cancer has provided me with deep insights and inspiration that I regularly integrate into our overall approach to prostate cancer research,” explains Dr. Kang. “For me, those clinical experiences help to provide a fuller picture of patient needs – an invaluable perspective.”

For those men who are diagnosed early, the prognosis is promising with a five-year survival rate of nearly 100%. But for those men diagnosed with prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body or is resistant to medical or surgical treatments to lower testosterone, the outcomes can be dramatically different and the five-year survival rate remains low.

Here at Merck, we are focused on trying to do more for these men.

Merck’s prostate cancer research program, in collaboration with academia and other partners, is one of the most comprehensive, science-forward programs in the industry,” says Dr. Kang.

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“We're working with a true sense of urgency because prostate cancer affects many patients and their families, and they simply don't have time to wait.”

Dr. Peter Kang

Our science, coupled with new insights of the disease, continues to guide us – constantly evolving to inform clinical advancements.

“We are certainly smarter today in understanding the unique biology of prostate cancer,” explains Dr. Kang. “I am most encouraged by the fact that we now have more prostate cancer-specific treatments designed based on the biology of prostate cancer.”

And since the next breakthrough can come from anywhere and anyone, we regularly collaborate across the entire prostate cancer community, working with health care providers, academia and advocates to gain deeper insights and make progress for patients.

“We recognize that the fight against prostate cancer is a marathon, and to endure we must constantly evolve our strategies,” explains Dr. Kang. “As scientific leaders focused on changing the course of cancer forever, we must continue to ask big and bold questions, ultimately bringing us closer to our vision – a world where cancer isn’t just treated, but cured.”