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Life Extension Magazine

Life Extension Magazine July 2012
Report

Michael Milken Seeking Faster Cures to Prostate Cancer and More

By Kyle Roderick
Michael Milken Seeking Faster Cures to Prostate Cancer and More

Would you stop eating red meats and dairy products and switch to a largely vegetarian diet if you thought it would save your life? Financier Michael Milken did in 1993, after doctor’s diagnosed advanced prostate cancer and gave him 12 to 18 months to live. One of the most compelling points regarding Milken’s diagnosis, at age 46, is that it came only after he insisted on getting a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. His doctor initially told Milken that he was too young to be at risk. “Humor me,” Milken said. Fortunately, his doctor did. As Milken notes, “Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men.” The American Cancer Society’s latest estimates for prostate cancer in the United States state that:

  • About 240,890 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed this year.
  • About 33,720 men will die of prostate cancer this year.

It’s also worth noting that about 1 man in 6 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. More than 2 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer, and about one man in 36 will die of prostate cancer.

Almost 20 years after his terminal diagnosis, Milken is living proof that early testing for PSA is a wise decision, and that a health-enhancing dietary change can be highly beneficial. Milken’s dramatic recovery, however, involved far more than eating primarily low-fat plant foods. His urologist, Stuart (Skip) Holden, MD, put him on androgen-deprivation therapy, which involved taking two pills three times a day, plus a monthly injection to deprive cancer cells of the male hormones they need to multiply. This therapy reduced his PSA levels over the course of several months to zero. Milken also chose to undergo eight weeks of radiation therapy. Subsequent scans showed the swelling in his lymph nodes had disappeared. His cancer was in remission and remains so to this day.

Michael Milken Seeking Faster Cures to Prostate Cancer and More 2

There’s more to his healing narrative, for Milken recognized that his prostate cancer may have developed as a result of a decades-long grueling work schedule, high stress levels, meat-heavy diet, and too little exercise. As a result, he began reading evidence-based medical research on how specific nutrients, exercise and other lifestyle modifications may help slow prostate cancer, and he started making adjustments based on the research he read.

Nutritional Approaches to Prostate Health

Given that the Milken Family Foundation, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and FasterCures all work with the world’s leading cancer and nutritional research centers and scientists, it follows that Michael Milken is hyper-knowledgeable about nutrition. Milken devotedly follows nutritional principles such as eating antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, plus free radical-scavenging powerhouses like powdered green tea extract, which has been confirmed to help inhibit prostate cancer. Powdered green tea extract is a staple ingredient in the smoothie drink recipes in The Taste for Living Cookbook, which Milken co-authored with chef Beth Ginsberg.

Another favorite Milken nutrient is the antioxidant lycopene, which abounds in cooked tomatoes and has been found to concentrate in the prostate gland. Lycopene is believed to have beneficial effects on prostate cells. (Milken cites a Harvard study of 47,000 men led by Dr. Edward Giovannucci which found that men who eat 10 or more servings a week of tomato-based foods are up to 45% less likely to develop prostate cancer).* Another study, conducted at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, showed that increased levels of lycopene in the blood, and a reduction in polyunsaturated fats, relate to reduced PSA levels in some men.

* Giovannucci E, Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Intake of carotenoids and retinol in relation to risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995;87:1767–76.

Following his diagnosis, Milken and his wife Lori began researching aspects of holistic medicine. Their inquiries took them to the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts. This Berkshire Mountains facility treats people with therapies sourced from India’s three thousand year-old healing tradition of Ayurveda.

Michael Milken Seeking Faster Cures to Prostate Cancer and More 3

Here, the Milkens experienced Ayurvedic “herbal cures and relaxation,” he writes in The Taste for Living Cookbook,” co-authored with his personal and corporate chef, Beth Ginsberg. According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), Ayurveda is defined as a “whole medical system.” The NIH defines a whole medical system as “a complete system of theory and practice that has evolved over time in different cultures and apart from conventional medicine.” For more information on Ayurveda, log onto http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ayurveda/introduction.htm.

Intrigued by their initial experience of Ayurvedic healing, the Milkens arranged for a doctor trained in Western and Ayurvedic medicine to move into their home for a few months. “Early in the morning and late at night,” Milken recounts in Geoffrey E. Moore’s book, A Call to Action, he worked on “breathing techniques, herbal therapy, meditation and yoga.” The Milkens also learned how massage can activate the body’s T-cells, which fight cancer, and that aromatherapy can energize the immune system. In addition to traveling to China to meet with what Milken calls “chi” doctors, he met with integrative physicians such as Deepak Chopra, MD. “I felt it was important to connect the mind with the body,” he notes in A Call to Action.

While Milken’s triumph over advanced prostate cancer is inspiring, even more so are the medical philanthropies he founded while he was battling the disease. In 1993, Milken used his still formidable energy and will to establish the prostate cancer charity CaP CURE, now called the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF). Milken is also heavily involved in another foundation that he established called FasterCures (www.fastercures.org), a Washington, DC-based non-profit that creates action plans to speed scientific discovery for remedies to all major diseases.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation

The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) is the leading philanthropic organization funding and accelerating research globally.

Since 1993, their unique strategies for identifying and investing in the most promising research programs have generated life-saving results. They channel resources to the world’s top scientific minds—cutting red tape and encouraging collaboration to speed breakthroughs.

As a champion for increased government and private support, PCF has helped build a global research enterprise of nearly $10 billion. Through the generous contributions of donors, they have funded more than 1,500 programs at nearly 200 research centers in 12 countries.

The Reliable Source for the Latest Developments

For more than 16 million men and their families fighting prostate cancer globally, PCF is a primary source for new standard-of-care and research information. They connect patients, loved ones, care providers, and scientists to critical updates, the latest developments, best practices, and news from the treatment pipeline.

Advancing Hope

Many important discoveries in the fight against prostate cancer since 1993 resulted from PCF funding or coordination—including the development of new medications, gene therapy approaches and the development of vaccines that may soon work with the body’s immune system to kill prostate cancer cells.

Thanks to these and other victories, the US death rate from prostate cancer has dropped nearly 40% from what was once projected.

CaP CURE and the Prostate Cancer Foundation came into existence after Milken discovered from consulting with influential researchers and bio-tech leaders such as Gordon Binder, then-CEO of Amgen, that prostate cancer ranked low on the national research agenda. Undaunted, Milken resolved to change the slow-motion pace of prostate cancer research, raise the disease’s public profile and catalyze a movement to increase funding for prostate cancer research while accelerating the awarding of grant monies to researchers. Toward that end, the Milken Family Foundation committed $25 million over five years to the PCF and later renewed with a second $25 million commitment. Equally important, the PCF (www.pcf.org/) established a revolutionary and streamlined awards process which limits applications to five pages, and funds approved research applications within the comparatively rapid span of 90 days.

As Andrew von Eschenbach, formerly the director of the National Cancer Institute and a past director of the United States Food and Drug Administration, puts it, “Michael Milken changed the culture of medical research. He created a sense of urgency that focused on results and shortened the timeline,” he continues. “It took a business mindset to shake things up. What he has done is now the model.” (Dr. von Eschenbach has helped grow the Prostate Cancer Foundation since 1993 by serving on its Board and as a scientific advisor.) He also founded C-Change (www.c-changetogether.org), a forum that unites leaders of national cancer organizations that is in partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

While working to enhance medical research into prostate cancer, Milken continually saw how no one was trying to leverage the enormous political power of the millions of Americans with cancer and their families to change the so-called “war” on cancer. In 1998, the PCF took a leading role in organizing “The March: Coming Together to Conquer Cancer.” In September 1998, 150,000 people representing 600 cancer organizations gathered on the National Mall in Washington to demand increased federal funding for cancer research. Hundreds of thousands more rallied in 200 cities across the US. In the five years after The March, federal funding of cancer research increased nearly 70%.

In 2003, Milken launched FasterCures, a Washington, DC, based center of the Milken Institute that is creating action plans to shorten the path of scientific discovery for all major diseases. The mission of FasterCures is to improve the process of medical research, prevention, and regulatory science.

Geoffrey E. Moore, who provides communications counsel to Michael Milken and his foundations, notes that clearly, care is an important issue since it accounts for 97% of health spending, but Milken’s most intense focus “is on the other 3%, or what some call the health cure system.” According to Moore, Milken “…believes that we will never be able to afford the rising costs of care if our nation continues to shy away from funding development of new cures.” Considering the dire economic times we are weathering, Milken says, “The greatest long-term stimulus we can provide our economy will come from better prevention and from medical science. So let’s set our priorities. For example,” he continues, “for just half the cost of an aircraft carrier, we can double scientific investigations into heart disease.”

Milken’s argument in favor of more investment in medical research becomes even more compelling when we consider the routinely hefty expenditures made for products that provide dubious returns on investment. “National political campaigns in 2008 cost $5.3 billion,” Milken explains. “Interestingly, Americans also spend $5.3 billion a year on potato chips. Potato chips! Nearly double the federal budget for heart-disease research. More than the National Cancer Institute budget. Improved public health translates directly into greater national productivity, which underpins all economic growth.

Early Detection of Prostate Cancer May Help Save Your Life

Did you know that you can have your prostate-specific antigen levels checked by an easy blood test? Life Extension® offers a Male Panel blood test that checks levels of prostate-specific antigen along with other vital health signs such as:

  • Chemistry Panel (Metabolic panel with lipids)
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
  • Free Testosterone
  • Total Testosterone
  • DHEA - Sulfate
  • Estradiol
  • Homocysteine
  • C-reactive protein (High-sensitivity)
  • TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone)
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D
  • PSA (Prostate-specific antigen)

For more information about the Life Extension blood tests, call 1-800-208-3444.


ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: The Washington Post, October 12, 2011

Why block a test that saves lives?

By Michael Milken

Forty years ago, my mother-in-law learned from a mammogram at age 57 that she had breast cancer. We immediately sought the best available treatment. She lived for many happy years and enjoyed precious time with her grandchildren. Would she have died sooner without the mammogram? I don’t know. But here’s what I do know from four decades of working to accelerate progress against all life-threatening diseases: No screening test is perfect; well-informed patients consulting with their doctors are better equipped than a government agency to make decisions about their health; there are options other than screening everyone or screening no one; and finally, there’s no comfort in ignorance.

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a panel supported by a congressional mandate, now recommends that healthy men not receive prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, which measure a protein in the blood produced by prostate tissue. I agree that the current PSA test is inexact and, in many cases, leads to overtreatment that can have terrible side effects such as incontinence and impotence. Research supported by the Prostate Cancer Foundation has led to the development of several new molecular markers that could soon complement or even replace the PSA test. These new tests, now in clinical trials pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration, should greatly improve diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

However, in the meantime, the USPSTF recommendation is a disservice to the majority of men. While it would eliminate some short-term health-care costs, long-term costs of treating metastatic disease would be higher. And some men will die. A recent European study showed that testing reduced deaths significantly among men ages 55 to 69. These relatively younger patients are the ones the recent recommendation would most likely exclude from testing because they more often appear to be healthy.

The PSA test doesn’t diagnose prostate cancer. But it can raise a red flag calling for a doctor-patient dialogue on medical options, risks, benefits and costs. We need to make better use of it, not ban it, and, as the American Cancer Society recommends, better inform patients of overtreatment risks.

When we founded the Prostate Cancer Foundation nearly two decades ago, more than 40,000 US men died annually from the disease. That toll was expected to rise sharply as population grew and baby boomers aged. Instead, deaths have dropped closer to 34,000. What happened? For one thing, we’ve supported research that has produced more effective therapies. But also, through media, advocacy events, and congressional testimony, we have delivered the message that men should talk to their doctors about a PSA test, and that loved ones should give the same message to the men in their lives.

There’s no precise way to know how many lives were saved by increased awareness that led to testing and how many by improved treatment. But experienced urologists tell me that before PSA tests, the vast majority of patients’ prostate cancer had already metastasized by diagnosis. Today, only about 20% of these diagnosed cancers have spread outside the prostate, partly because PSA tests provide early warning. We shouldn’t turn the clock back to the pre-PSA days.

The USPSTF recommendation could produce a cruel form of rationing in which the well-off and well-informed would get PSA tests while many of the poor wouldn’t. That could disproportionately affect African Americans, who have higher prostate cancer risk and death rates.

The argument against testing reflects the same false economy seen throughout America’s health system. Spending on care skyrockets while funding for screening, prevention, and research drops. Out of each health-related dollar Americans spend, research by the National Institutes of Health represents little more than a penny; and the medical research programs of private industry, universities and governments together total just over a nickel.

Congress should consider research and funding for prevention an investment, not an expense. The Milken Institute estimates that America’s gross domestic product will be $5.7 trillion lower by mid-century if we don’t contain the containable consequences of chronic diseases. We can save trillions - more than enough to balance the federal budget - by losing weight, exercising, avoiding tobacco, using seat belts, and getting regular tests such as PSAs, colonoscopies, and mammograms.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation agrees with the American Urological Association that PSA screening provides important information for men and their doctors. In 1993, I was one of those “healthy” men the task force says should not be tested. At least I seemed healthy and felt fine. But I’d recently lost a friend to prostate cancer, so I asked for the test. The result was a reading six times the upper limit of normal. If I’d been kept in the dark by a federal task force, I might not have been here to write this.

Michael Milken is chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation and of FasterCures, a Washington-based center of the Milken Institute focused on all serious diseases.