In 1984, Stephen B. Strum MD, a medical oncologist practicing in California since 1973, was inspired by a patient with prostate cancer to collaborate with Fernand Labrie of the Laval University in Quebec City, Canada on the use of an anti-androgen, Euflex, combined with an LHRH agonist drug called D-tryp-6. These agents had not been studied in-depth in the treatment of prostate cancer. This was five years before Eulexin (Flutamide) and Lupron (Leuprolide) were given FDA approval in the United States.
This early association with Dr. Labrie in clinical research on the use of combined androgen blockade in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer led to a change in the composition of the patient population seen by Dr. Strum. By the late 1980s, approximately 20% of the patients in Dr. Strum’s general medical oncology practice were prostate cancer patients. This percentage increased to 80% by 1995.
In 1994, Dr. Strum began contributing after-hour’s work to help patients on the CompuServe Cancer Forum section dedicated to prostate cancer. This site gained increased activity and Dr. Strum decided that the Internet was the most promising technology to reach a larger audience. Over the ensuing years, he volunteered his services extensively on the prostate cancer forum called P2P or Patients to Physicians that he helped to create.
In 1995, Dr. Mark C. Scholz joined Dr. Strum’s practice, and the entire focus of their work became treatment of prostate cancer patients. This partnership was named Healing Touch Oncology (HTO). During this time of change, the idea of a non-profit organization that could further the cause of the prostate cancer patient came into being. In July of 1996, a non-profit foundation was formed through collaborative efforts of HTO and the Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in order to fund the Institute for Prostate Cancer Research (IPCR). IPCR was incorporated as a non-profit on Jan 27, 1997. The name was changed to the Prostate Cancer Research Institute (PCRI) on March 12, 1998.
Drs. Strum and Scholz were hopeful that an organization combining insightful clinical research with high-level educational activities, directed to both the patient and the physician, would greatly enhance outcomes for prostate cancer patients everywhere. In this vein, HTO had already embarked on leading edge clinical work. In fact much of this work had been initiated by Dr. Strum beginning back in 1984 and had been further developed over the ensuing years. This is supported by the publications on prostate cancer pre-dating the creation of PCRI. Educational activities were stepped up in December 1997, with two full-time Educational Facilitators, Jonathan McDermed, PharmD, and Harry Pinchot, a prostate cancer patient. Early activities included working with various prostate cancer support groups and providing a helpline for people dealing with prostate cancer. Drs. Strum and Scholz worked after hours to contribute their professional skills in the realm of leading edge work on prostate cancer. In addition, they shared this information via lectures and published material, thus combining the findings of their clinical research with those of others with the goal of educating patient-physician teams to optimize the outcomes of patients.
Dr. Strum served as the Medical Director of PCRI until June of 2002. During that period, PCRI expanded the Helpline, initiated a Web site and newsletter, and produced several national and regional conferences. Since his resignation, PCRI has focused the bulk of its energy on providing prostate cancer education to individuals dealing with the disease.