2009 has been an eventful year for prostate cancer that will impact the future direction of prostate cancer screening and treatment for years to come. The release of prostate cancer mortality screening trials data in March and health care reform legislation seem to be driving factors in shaping national policies. Additionally the positive results in April from the Provenge clinical trials was a major event and should provide a breakthrough immunotherapy treatment becoming available in 2010, along with the potential for a new era in prostate cancer treatments.

Early detection of prostate cancer through screening has been a primary focus of efforts to combat this disease over the past decade, and we have witnessed a continuing decrease in the overall death rate during this time which most have attributed to this strategy. However, some of the published articles this year seem to call into question that which has been regarded as a successful strategy. In addition, health reform legislation debate is stirring concerns about coverage for certain types of new treatments.

Prostate cancer is experiencing a much needed high level of public visibility. The question is where all of this will leave us when things are settled. Will we see a continued decrease in the death rate or will national policies determine that the costs are too great? What will happen to African American men and other high risk men with unmet needs who are seemingly being overlooked and simply regarded as footnotes in the current debates? Also, is anyone considering the overall human and financial costs if, through risky missteps, the prostate cancer clock is turned back to the pre screening era with the death rates experienced at that time?

Significant challenges to continue increasing survival rates while reducing overall costs appear to include; (a) Finding the proper roadmap for the early detection and proper treatment of ?clinically significant? prostate cancer, without sacrificing any gains already made, (b) The use of new treatments to increase survival and quality of life, and (c) Widespread education, awareness and support (especially among those men at high risk for prostate cancer) that will help families navigate the complexities of the disease from diagnosis through survivorship.

The fifth annual "African American Prostate Cancer Disparity Summit" will address these issues, with a focus on opportunities to reduce the largest racial disparity for any type of cancer. The summit will be hosted at the Washington Convention Center in conjunction with the annual Congressional Black Caucus legislative conference and in the Rayburn House Office building.

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