In Memory of John Lee Willey, Leader, Veteran, Advocate, and Prostate Cancer Research Program Integration Panel Member
John Willey, a consumer member of the Prostate Cancer Research Program's (PCRP) Integration Panel (IP) since fiscal year 2007, died on Tuesday, November 24, 2009, after battling prostate cancer for 17 years.
As a member of the PCRP IP, John brought firsthand experience of prostate cancer and a sense of urgency to the work of the IP. In doing so, he helped shape the program by contributing to the investment strategy, participating in programmatic review of applications, and focusing attention on issues critical to patients such as outcomes and quality of life. As a consumer member, he helped to keep the program's focus on innovation and taking risk when the potential payoff was high. During his term on the IP, John was a staunch advocate of the Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Consortium - a multi-institutional clinical research endeavor consisting of a nationwide network of 13 leading institutions specializing in cutting-edge prostate cancer clinical research and therapies. The consortium's goal is to streamline the design, implementation, and completion of Phase I/II and Phase II clinical trials of novel agents and combination therapies that could prolong the lives of prostate cancer patients. The consortium, supported since 2005 with funds from the PCRP, is also supported by foundations and other private entities. John said that this effort was "the best use of PCRP funds in support of collaborative partnerships between scientists/clinicians and institutions to advance clinical trials."
At the programmatic review meetings where funding recommendations were made, John was passionate about impactful research and was a champion for taking high risk for potential significant advancements in prostate cancer research, treatment, and clinical care. He supported the PCRP's core emphasis on innovation - to look and think outside the box for new ways of advancing research and clinical progress. John was never hesitant to engage some of the brightest minds in prostate cancer research. He often challenged scientists and clinicians on the merit of the science and sought clear justification for investing critical resources (dollars) in risky research projects. Recently, he described his involvement with the PCRP IP in this way; "The U.S. Army's CDMRP... is one of the best examples of direct action that is specifically dedicated to targeting prostate cancer and eliminating its tragic consequences. It is through the CDMRP that research scientists and medical professionals are able to thoroughly and thoughtfully develop new ideas for the treatment of prostate cancer and translate the research into therapies for those affected with this disease. Because of its efficacy, the CDMRP is highly respected and is the example that other research programs should be modeled after. It is the best there is in its field. It was an honor to serve on the Integration Panel and to have the final review of and vote for the very best therapies specifically targeted against prostate cancer."
In working with colleagues on the PCRP IP, John advocated for more impactful research as a central part of the program's investment strategy. On behalf of the advocate community, he argued vociferously for increased investment and research in early-stage research, effective prevention, minimally invasive screening, better treatment options for advanced prostate cancer, and methods to improve quality of life for patients.
As a prostate cancer advocate and Board Member of Zero, The Project to End Prostate Cancer, John was tireless in his efforts to garner increased support for congressional appropriations for prostate cancer research. Similarly, he supported legislation to provide funds for prostate imaging research, as well as educating men about prostate cancer (Prostate Research Imaging and Men's Education - PRIME). As a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, he brought the determined spirit of the war fighter in his quest to find a cure for the thousands of men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer and those who have no access to screening.
John was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on December 19, 1944. He attended high school in Connecticut and earned a degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1967. John is survived by a large, extended family including his beloved wife, Andrea Curme Willey; two sons, John Scott Willey and Andrew Garrett Willey; a brother, Willis H. Willey III; a sister, the Reverend N. Lee Bowman; and many nieces, nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews. In addition to his many advocacy, civic, and charitable causes for increased federal investment in prostate cancer research, John was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed the simple pleasures of fishing and hunting. John worked successfully in corporate real estate for over 20 years in Washington, DC, and was Chairman of the Solutions Team.
The PCRP is indebted to John Willey for his gracious leadership, robust advocacy, and selfless generosity in the fight to conquer prostate cancer not only for himself, but for the thousands of men who continue to hope for a cure.