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WFUBMC To Establish Prostate Cancer Center of Excellence

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center will establish a Center of Excellence for Prostate Cancer this year, making it one of a handful of dedicated centers in the nation committed to the treatment of this disease.

The center is the first of several academic excellence block grant programs the hospital will award over the next several years, as part of a $30 million initiative that is unique among academic medical centers nationwide.

The Prostate Cancer Center of Excellence will focus on improving outcomes for patients, offering hope to the more than 10,000 men in North Carolina alone who will be diagnosed with the disease in 1999.

The $5 million grant from N.C. Baptist Hospitals, Inc., will fund several new positions, including a molecular scientist and epidemiologist, new labs and supplies, and a number of new studies addressing both the prevention and treatment aspects of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting men in the United States and is the second-highest cause of mortality in American men. Only a few institutions in the nation have programs dedicated to prostate cancer.

"North Carolina Baptist Hospital recognizes that programs like these are necessary to advance the understanding of a disease and thereby to improve diagnosis and treatment," said Len B. Preslar Jr., hospital president and CEO. "By funding these block grants, physicians are enabled to more effectively fight illnesses like prostate cancer and improve outcomes for residents in North Carolina, as well as nationwide."

Two additional academic excellence block grant proposals will be proposed this spring for funding.

"To be selected for funding the proposed program must be multidisciplinary, and should have the capability of elevating the center to one of the top 10 programs of its type in the country," said Curt Furberg, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Office of Academic Program Development for the Medical Center. "In addition, the programs should contain education, both basic and clinical research, and clinical care initiatives."

Budgets for these block grant programs will not exceed $5 million -- $2.5 million of which will be set aside in an escrow account for future growth of the program.

"One of the goals of this type of program is to take good research and make it outstanding," said Richard H. Dean, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "This is a remarkable program that will affect patient care and our community positively over the next decade."

For example, the Prostate Cancer Center for Excellence plans to provide new treatment and quality-of-life protocols, as well as developing new methods to treat the disease.

Research will include basic scientists working on chemoprevention. Epidemiological studies will focus on farmers, African-Americans and other high-risk individuals and on diet-gene interactions, such as the effects of fruits and vegetables and decreasing dietary fat.

Nutritional studies on new treatments including gene therapy, immunotherapy, hormone treatments and new drug therapies will also be included.

"One of the criteria for receiving a block grant is to provide a program which treats all aspects of patient care," Furberg said. "We want our centers of excellence to not only look at new treatment procedures, but quality-of-life issues as well."

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