Photos and text used with permission of
Mr. Thomas Cox.
Helping to Direct Prostate Cancer Research Dollars: I Did It, So Can You!
by Thomas Cox
from the August 2005 issue of the WRAMC US TOO, Inc. Newsletter
Imagine sitting in conference with other prostate cancer survivors and an array of distinguished scientists to recommend the award of $85 million for promising prostate cancer research proposals. That's what I did last April as a participant in the Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP), a part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). I was a consumer reviewer bringing my perspective as a prostate cancer survivor to represent the interests and concerns of the greater prostate cancer community.
Learning about this unique opportunity for service, I applied for nomination by my Us TOO chapter and I was pleased to be selected. Soon after, I received the packet of research proposals assigned to me. Of course, the proposals were technical in nature, but that was not a concern. Evaluating the scientific aspects of the proposals was the responsibility of scientists on my panel who had been chosen for their expertise in the scientific areas under consideration. As a consumer reviewer, my job was to assess the relevance of the proposals for prostate cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment from the perspective of the prostate cancer community. I was assigned to the Clinical and Experimental Therapeutics Panel that reviewed research proposals in the areas of chemoprevention, diet regimens, lifestyle changes, surgical procedures, and chemotherapy. I spent about thirty hours at home reviewing and critiquing my assigned proposals, again not letting myself get bogged down in their scientific validity. Then I joined fellow prostate cancer survivors and scientists at a hotel in Fairfax, Virginia, for evaluation sessions over the course of two and one-half days.
The peer review sessions were a mind-expanding learning experience for me. I was an equal voting member with the scientists as we reviewed and voted on the merits of the research proposals assigned to our panel. The atmosphere was very collegial, and the scientists demonstrated by their remarks and demeanor that I was a welcomed resource for the deliberations. The scientific reviewers had no personal experience with prostate cancer, so they listened with interest to what we consumer reviewers had to say. They sincerely appreciated our efforts to bring out the "bottom line" for prostate cancer survivors and their families.
Let me add that the PCRP logistics for the entire process, from my selection to the end of the peer review sessions, were outstanding. Travel arrangements, hotel accommodations, meals, and other administrative arrangements were first-rate, and our time was well-managed. The CDMRP is administered by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. Colonel Kenneth Bertram, its director and an oncologist, was enthusiastic about the role of consumer reviewers. He cited the unique perspective we can bring to the funding decisions, at the same time that we broaden our own understanding of prostate cancer and the research efforts to cure the disease.
Finally, the enthusiasm and commitment to find the cure for prostate cancer were palpable throughout. And I greatly enjoyed the sense of camaraderie and achievement engendered by the entire peer review process. I was honored to represent the prostate cancer community and my Us TOO chapter. I hope to be selected again next year. Why not apply to be a consumer reviewer?
Since 1997, 325 consumer reviewers have helped direct $650 million for prostate cancer research. Together we can make a difference. Come join us at the conference table.