A University of Florida research team has been approved for a five-year, $11.9 million award to directly compare the potential benefits and harms of proton therapy to standard radiation therapy when treating prostate cancer.
Nancy Mendenhall, M.D., medical director of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, leads the team that received funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, or PCORI, for a large-scale pragmatic clinical study on prostate cancer — the most common non-skin cancer afflicting men in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
About 160,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States, and approximately one-third of all men with the disease receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment. However, this can cause short- and long-term bowel and bladder damage that leads to organ dysfunction and significantly impacts the patient’s quality of life. Most radiation therapy is delivered using X-rays, but proton therapy is an alternative that uses a focused beam of accelerated protons rather than traditional X-rays to target tumors and cancer cells more precisely.
Mendenhall, also a professor and associate chair in the department of radiation oncology at UF, and Ronald Chen, M.D., an associate professor in the department of radiation oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are the study’s principal investigators.
“This large, multi-institutional PCORI-funded study led by Dr. Mendenhall represents a concrete opportunity to move the field of radiation oncology toward the best approaches to reducing suffering and curing this oftentimes devastating disease,” said Paul Okunieff, M.D., a professor and chair of the department of radiation oncology at UF.
Mendenhall’s study was selected for funding through PCORI’s Pragmatic Clinical Studies Initiative, an effort to produce results that are broadly applicable to a diverse range of patients and care situations and can be more quickly taken up in routine clinical practice. It was one of 14 studies selected through a highly competitive review process in which patients, caregivers and other stakeholders joined scientists to evaluate the proposals.
“Dr. Mendenhall is a visionary clinician and research scientist who’s a driving force in this country in advocating for less-toxic radiation therapy,” said Jonathan Licht, M.D., director of the UF Health Cancer Center. “This is the type of leading-edge, pragmatic clinical study that we at the University of Florida want to be known for.”
PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that provides patients, their caregivers and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health care decisions. The UF award has been approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract.