“If there’s a problem, men don’t want to pay attention to it,” says Jamie Bearse, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the National Prostate Cancer Coalition (NPCC) in Washington, D.C. But if there’s a woman…
Enter Miss America 2000, Heather French Henry. On April 7, when the beauty queen begins a monthlong media blitz advocating increased funding for prostate cancer research, NPCC hopes that lots of men—and women—will pay attention. Among the men whose prostate awareness will be targeted by Henry is Montana Republican Congressman Dennis Rehberg, who is a member of the Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee—the committee that will ultimately decide whether to increase the Department of Defense’s (DOD) prostate cancer research budget from $85 million to $100 million. That $15 million jump, Bearse explains, would provide what the DOD’s business plan considers adequate funding to conduct meaningful clinical trials for humans. Such clinical trials could lead to the discovery of a treatment like the breast-cancer drug Herceptin, which was developed by the DOD and has proven to increase breast cancer survival rates by 33 percent.
But wait. What do Miss America and the DOD have to do with prostate cancer research—and why is Rep. Rehberg being singled out?
“Not many people know about this,” Bearse says, “but there is prostate cancer research funding that goes on at the DOD,” through a program called the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. Miss America’s advocacy of prostate cancer research is her own personal response to her husband, former Kentucky Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, being diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years ago. And as for Rehberg, he’s just one of the 14 committee members with whom Henry will meet after she testifies.
Whether or not Miss America is successful in convincing Rehberg to vote to increase the Department of Defense’s prostate cancer research budget, one thing’s for sure: It’ll be a while before anyone will have occasion to put all those words in the same sentence again.