Cancer – Highlight HEALTH Discover the Science of Health Thu, 19 Oct 2017 18:20:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month Mon, 09 Jan 2017 03:58:05 +0000 The goal of National Cervical Health Awareness Month is to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from HPV and cervical cancer.]]>

The goal of National Cervical Health Awareness Month is to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer. HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. It’s also a major cause of cervical cancer.

Every year, approximately 13,000 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and, of those, about one-third will die as a result. The good news is that HPV can be prevented with the HPV vaccine. Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care. Most insurance plans cover well-woman visits and cervical cancer screening, which means women can get those services at no cost to them.

Today, no woman needs to die from this disease. Cervical cancer has become the ultimate preventable cancer success story. Thanks to advances in early detection and prevention, the cervical cancer death rate has declined by almost 70% due to increased use of Pap tests and the 5 year survival rate for women diagnosed with cervical cancer is close to 75%. For a timeline on research and testing developments as well as a list of major risk factors, see the infographic below from the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

You can find more information and resources on cervical cancer at the American Cancer Society.

Oncologists Have Mixed Attitudes on the Use of Genomic Testing Fri, 28 Mar 2014 15:00:04 +0000 A recent study finds that not all physicians are eager to embrace predictive genomic testing.]]>

Predictive genomic testing has the potential to usher in an era of personalized cancer care for patients. However, a recent study finds that not all physicians are eager to embrace the technology.

Cancer genomic testing

Researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute surveyed 160 physicians from Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, which has a comprehensive research program that allows all consenting patients to have their tumor genome tested for mutations and other DNA changes.

The physicians were asked about their current use of somatic testing (non-inherited mutations in cancers), their attitudes about multiplex testing (a type of test that simultaneously measures multiple substances in a single run/cycle of the test), and their confidence in their ability to understand and use genomic data.

The survey was conducted between 2011 and 2012. Twenty-two percent of physicians reported low confidence in their genomic knowledge. One quarter of physicians (25%) anticipated testing most patients (>90%), while 18% anticipated testing patients infrequently (<10%).

Higher confidence in genomic testing was associated with wanting to test a majority of patients and anticipating using actionable test results or potentially actionable test results to inform treatment recommendations. Just under half (42%) of respondents said they approved disclosing uncertain genomic findings to patients.

Stacy W. Gray, MD, AM, first author of the study and a thoracic cancer physician at Dana-Farber, said:

Some oncologists said we shouldn’t return these results to patients, and others say ‘of course, we should give them to the patient.’ The fact that we found so much variation in physicians’ confidence about their ability to use genetic data at a tertiary care National Cancer Institute–designated comprehensive cancer center makes us pause and wonder about how confident physicians in the community are about dealing with this. It begs the question at the national level, how are we going to make sure that this technology for cancer care is adequately delivered?

The researchers advocate for renewed efforts in physician genomic education and decision support. They conclude that a concerted effort is needed to ensure that physicians present information about predictive multiplex tests to patients in a way that enhances patient understanding and increases patients’ test acceptance.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Source: The Asco Post

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Carmel Coloring in Soda May Contain Potential Carcinogen Thu, 30 Jan 2014 14:41:15 +0000 The dark-brown coloring of many soft drinks contains a chemical that Consumer Reports warns may contain a potential carcinogen.]]>

The dark-brown coloring of many soft drinks contains a chemical that Consumer Reports warns may contain a potential carcinogen.

Glass cola

On January 23rd, Consumer Reports published findings showing that many dark colored soft drinks contain the chemical 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI). In the United States, product labels refer to the chemical as “caramel coloring,” and although that sounds good it actually has nothing to do with real carmel.

In 2007, a study concluded that 4-MeI caused cancer in mice [1]. Three years later in 2010, the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined the 4-MeI to be “possibly carcinogenic to humans” [2]. Although there’s no federal limit for levels of 4-MeI in foods and beverages, since January 2012 the state of California requires manufacturers to label a product sold in the state with a cancer warning if it exposes consumers to more than 29 micrograms of 4-MeI per day.

Consumer Reports tested 81 cans and bottles of various popular brands of soft drinks from stores in California and New York between April and September 2013. If the brand tested above 29 micrograms, it was tested again from the same areas in December 2013.

Both rounds of testing found that the level of 4-MeI in the samples of Pepsi One and Malta Goya purchased from both locations exceeded 29 micrograms per can or bottle:

  • California Pepsi One average: 41.5 micrograms
  • New York Pepsi One average: 178.05 micrograms
  • California Malta Goya average: 334.3 micrograms
  • New York Malta Goya average: 325.1 micrograms

In testing, three brands — Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero — came in under 5 micrograms per can. Sprite, which was tested as a control (since it’s a clear soda), showed no significant levels of 4-MeI.

Consumer Reports is petitioning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set a federal standard for 4-MeI. In a statement, the FDA said it does not believe that 4-MeI from caramel coloring at levels currently in food pose a risk. The FDA are currently doing their own tests of foods, including sodas, for 4-MeI. In addition, they are reviewing new safety data on 4-MeI to determine what, if any, regulatory action needs to be taken.

Source: Consumer Reports


  1. National Toxicity Program. Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of 4-methylimidazole (Cas No. 822-36-6) in F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice (feed studies). Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser. 2007 Jan;(535):1-274.
    View abstract
  2. IARC Monograph on 4-methylimidazole. International Agency for Research on Cancer. 2010 Dec 27.
U.S. Cancer Deaths Down 20 Percent Over Last Two Decades Wed, 15 Jan 2014 15:00:00 +0000 According to a new American Cancer Society (ACS) report, fewer people are dying from cancer.]]>

According to a new American Cancer Society (ACS) report, fewer people are dying from cancer.


The report, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, evaluated cancer death rates from 1991 to 2010. Mortality data shows a 20% decline in the combined cancer death rate (deaths per 100,000 population). This translates to the avoidance of approximately 1.3 million cancer deaths.

The size of the decline in cancer death rates over the last 20 years varies substantially by age, race, and sex, ranging from no decline among white women aged 80 years and older to a 55% decline among black men aged 40 years to 49 years. Notably, black men experienced the largest drop within every 10-year age group.

In a statement, John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said:

The halving of the risk of cancer death among middle aged black men in just two decades is extraordinary, but it is immediately tempered by the knowledge that death rates are still higher among black men than white men for nearly every major cancer and for all cancers combined.

According to projections in the ACS report, an estimated 1.6 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2014 and just over one-third of patients will die from the disease.

Among men, cancers of the prostate, lung and bronchus, and colorectum will account for roughly half of all newly diagnosed cancers (prostate cancer alone will account for 27%). In women, cancers of the breast, lung and bronchus, and colorectum will account for 50% of all new cases (breast cancer alone will account for 29%).

Recent studies suggest that as much as 70% of all cancers are preventable through diet and lifestyle. There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer; indeed even something as simple as a daily aspirin may reduce cancer risk.

Source: CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians

Project Violet Combines Crowdfunding, Social Media, and Video Game-style Engagement for Drug Discovery Wed, 11 Sep 2013 12:59:10 +0000 Project Violet is an effort to build a citizen science community and drive early drug discovery at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.]]>

Project Violet is a philanthropic effort to build a citizen science community and drive early drug discovery at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center [1]. Launched last month, the project combines aspects of crowdfunding, social media, and video game-style engagement to raise capital from thousands of donors and engage them in a drug discovery journey over the next few years.

Project Violet

Jim Olson, M.D., Ph.D., leader of the project, pediatric oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and clinical researcher at Fred Hutch, named it after a spirited, red-headed girl named Violet who died at age 11 from an inoperable brainstem tumor. Before Violet died last year, she and her family requested her brain tumor be used to create research tools that could be shared with scientists worldwide to help kids who are diagnosed in the future.

Dr. Olson said [1]:

That spirit of generosity led to the most exciting scientific project I’ve worked on in my life. It was only fitting that it be named after Violet. I knew that we were going to do this in her spirit, memory and honor.

A new class of anti-cancer drugs

Project Violet aims to develop a fundamentally new class of anti-cancer compounds called optides (optimized peptides found in nature) — chemical templates from organisms such as violets, scorpions and sunflowers — to attack cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched.

Traditional drugs are often small molecules. In contrast, optides are protein peptides — short chains of 30 to 40 amino acids in length that can bind to specific targets in cells. Unlike antibody therapeutics, optides are small enough to get inside cells and can reach difficult, three dimensional targets that can be inaccessible to conventional small molecule drugs.

Fred Hutch scientists have discovered how to create thousands of optide variations (they report they can now create 10,000 optides in three weeks). The small team can produce the drugs on campus instead of having to use an expensive contract manufacturer.

Now the race is on to identify the ones that can shut down cancer or paralyze diseases that affect human patients. Viable drug candidates will be handed off to a commercial partner, likely Blaze Bioscience (founded by Olson), for further development. The Hutch recently amended its collaboration with Blaze Bioscience; the company has the exclusive option to license optides developed through Project Violet [2].

Crowdfunding research

Project Violet is crowdfunding the research in a unique way: donate $100 and adopt a drug. According to the website, you can “select a drug candidate to call your own, join the drug discovery process and try to pick a lifesaving winner.” It’s a rare opportunity to share in the challenges and triumph of drug discovery from initial research through to FDA approval.

Donors will receive an illustration of their molecule, and they will be able to follow periodic blog updates from researchers who will share some of the problems and successes in the early phases of drug development. In the event that an adopted molecule fails, the donor can get switched to a new one. Dr. Olson’s team has thought extensively about how to keep donor interest up over time, and are building in options to maintain engagement.

In addition to cancer, in this very first phase of Project Violet, the optides are also being tested to prevent stroke, brain and mental health disorders, and a certain type of autism.

Watch Dr. Jim Olson’s TEDxSeattle talk (below) and, to encourage those who care about cancer patients to spread the word, the Washington Research Foundation (WRF) will donate up to $50,000 ($10 for each view) toward cancer drug discovery. In the talk, Dr. Olson discusses how he was inspired by individual patients that he cared for, and how this inspiration led to a whole new platform of drug candidates that come from violets, sunflowers, spiders and scorpions.

At the Project Violet website, you can adopt a drug candidate, gift a drug candidate or make a donation.


  1. How a little girl with brain cancer inspired ‘citizen science.’ Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 2013 Aug 12.
  2. Blaze Bioscience and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Enter into Collaboration and Option Agreement in Support of Optides Discovery Program. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 2013 July 3.
Big Ten Universities Form Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium Mon, 10 Jun 2013 11:14:35 +0000 Big Ten Cancer Research ConsortiumLast week, leaders from Big Ten universities' cancer centers kicked off the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. ]]> Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium

In sports, the Big Ten universities compete against each other, but now many will join together to fight cancer. Last week in Chicago, Illinois, leaders from the universities’ cancer centers kicked off the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium [1].

Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium

The cancer centers are uniting to transform cancer research through collaborative oncology trials that leverage the scientific and clinical expertise of the Big Ten universities listed below. The consortium forms a powerful collaboration because of the solid research infrastructure already existing at each university. The consortium also leverages geographical locations and existing relationships among the cancer centers.

According to Noah Hahn, M.D., executive officer of the consortium, associate professor of medicine at IU School of Medicine and a researcher at the IU Simon Cancer Center [1]:

 A critical byproduct of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium will be the creation of a new arena for junior faculty cancer researchers to design and lead potential practice-changing cancer studies. Opportunities for junior faculty to lead clinical trials have been evaporating in recent years, but the consortium aims to intentionally promote junior faculty participation and leadership in all trials under appropriate senior faculty guidance and mentorship in an effort to address those decreasing opportunities.

Patrick J. Loehrer Sr., M.D., director of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, added [1]:

Tremendous strengths exist in the cancer centers of the Big Ten. This is a rare opportunity for the universities to work together as part of a regional team science initiative to advance cancer research. The advantage of this, particularly during a time of austerity for research, is that we can build upon the strengths of the institutions and fortify some of the shortcomings. This allows us to be lean, efficient but, most importantly, collaborative.

The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium consists of the following universities and cancer centers:

The Indianapolis-based Hoosier Oncology Group will serve as the administrative headquarters for the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. Since 1984, Hoosier Oncology Group has initiated more than 150 clinical trials with more than 4,000 patients.


  1. IU Simon Cancer Center Joins Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. Indiana University School of Medicine. 2013 May 31.
American Urology Association Changes Position on Routine Prostate Testing Tue, 07 May 2013 01:39:55 +0000 New guidelines from the American Urological Association now say that men under 55 should not get routinely screened with a PSA test for prostate cancer.]]>

The American Urological Association, which in recent years has defended the PSA screening test, has changed it’s position and no longer recommends routine testing for men.

PSA testing

On Friday, the American Urological Association (AUA) announced that men under the age of 55 should not get routinely screened with a PSA test  [1]. Men who are between the ages of 55 and 69 should talk with their doctors about the benefits and harms of testing and proceed based on their personal values and preferences.

The new guidelines for early detection of prostate cancer were developed using evidence from a systematic literature review rather than consensus opinion, and provides rating and interpretation of the evidence based on randomized controlled trials with modeled and population data as supporting evidence. The AUA panel acknowledged that ongoing research, including studies on biomarkers other than PSA, may lead to changes in the guidelines statements, and announced plans to regularly update the guidelines based on new evidence.

Unlike other types of cancers, prostate cancer is typically a slow-growing cancer. And although cancer develops in the prostate in most men as they age, it causes no trouble for most of them. Autopsy studies of men who died from something other than prostate cancer show that 30% of men over age 50 and 70% of men over age 70 have some cancerous cells in their prostate [2]. The cancers were too small to be detected by biopsy. The development of the PSA test changed this. While the PSA test can detect the presence of cancerous prostate cells, it can’t distinguish between ones that pose no threat to health from those that will.

In May 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) — an independent panel of medical experts that advise the government on treatment guidelines — released a recommendation that healthy men should not get routinely screened with a PSA test for prostate cancer, citing a number of harms related to screening and diagnostic procedures [3].

The recent AUA announcement is in sharp contrast from last year, when the organization blasted the Task Force for its recommendation, saying that they were “outraged at the USPSTF’s failure to amend its recommendations on prostate cancer testing to more adequately reflect the benefits of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test in the diagnosis of prostate cancer” [4].

The PSA test is used to measure levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a protein produced by the prostate, in the blood. PSA is a biomarker for prostate cancer.

Dr. H. Ballentine Carter, who chaired the panel that developed the guideline, said in a press release [1]:

There is general agreement that early detection, including prostate-specific antigen screening, has played a part in decreasing mortality from prostate cancer. The randomized controlled trials are more mature at this point and there is more data available today than there was in 2009. It’s time to reflect on how we screen men for prostate cancer and take a more selective approach in order to maximize benefit and minimize harms.

To further reduce the harms of cancer screening, for those men who have decided on screening, the AUA guidelines suggest a routine screening interval of two years or more instead of an annual screening to preserve the majority of screening benefits and reduce over diagnosis and false positives.

The guidelines do not recommend routine PSA screening in men over age 70 or any man with less than a 10-15 year life expectancy.


  1. AUA Releases New Clinical Guideline on Prostate Cancer Screening. American Urological Association press release. 2013 May 3.
  2. PSA Screening for Prostate Cancer. Weill Cornell Medical College. Accessed 2012 May 5.
  3. Screening for Prostate Cancer. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. 2012 May.
  4. AUA Disputes Panel’s Recommendations on Prostate Cancer Screening. American Urological Association press release. 2012 May 21.
Inspiring 15-Year-Old Develops Cancer Sensor Fri, 21 Dec 2012 20:31:15 +0000 Jack AndrakaJust 15 years old, Jack Andraka has invented a test that detects early stage pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer, and is cheaper and faster than today's gold standard test.]]> Jack Andraka

Jack Andraka has invented a test that can detect early stage pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer. The cancer sensor is cheaper and faster than today’s gold standard test. In May of this year, Jack Andraka’s groundbreaking research won $75,000 for the first place prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Jack plans to put that money towards college, because he’s just 15 years old.

Jack Andraka

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer death among men and women [1]. Projections based on the changing demographics of the U.S. population and changes in incidence and death rates suggest that pancreatic cancer will move from the fourth to the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. by 2020 [2].

Pancreatic cancer can often be difficult to diagnose, and is frequently not found until later stages when the cancer can no longer be removed with surgery because it has metastasized or spread from the pancreas to other parts of the body. The overall one-year survival rate of patients with pancreatic cancer is 26%, and the five-year survival rate is approximately 6%. If the cancer is detected at an early stage when surgical removal of the tumor is possible, the five-year survival rate quadruples to about 22%. That’s what makes Jack Andraka’s invention noteworthy — the ability to detect pancreatic cancer early.

A paper sensor

Spurred by the loss of a close family friend to pancreatic cancer, Jack began looking for a simple way to detect early pancreatic cancer when he was 14. He got an idea for how it might be done during biology class and spent a few months researching the subject and writing a research proposal. He cites search engines and free online science papers as the tools that allowed him to develop his proposal. When he set out to find a mentor and a laboratory in which to work, Jack contacted about 200 researchers. He received 297 rejections and one acceptance. The researcher who said yes was Anirban Maitra, M.D., a professor of pathology and oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a top researcher in pancreatic cancer.

Jack, working with Dr. Maitra, developed a dip-stick paper sensor that tests the level of a pancreatic cancer biomarker called mesothelin (MSLN) in the blood or urine of a patient. The sensor can also be used for lung and ovarian cancer because mesothelin is a biomarker for those diseases as well.

The sensor is 168 times faster than the existing diagnostic test called an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or ELISA, 26,667 times less expensive, and 400 times more sensitive. It costs just $3 and ten tests can be performed per strip, with each test taking five minutes.

The sensor is a piece of filter paper dipped in a solution of carbon nanotubes, which are hollow cylinders with walls the thickness of a single atom, coated with a specific antibody designed to bind to mesothelin (the pancreatic cancer biomarker).

Jack’s key insight is that there are measurable changes in the electrical conductivity of nanotubes when the distances between them changes. This is what makes the sensor more sensitive than existing tests: when the antibodies on the surface of the nanotubes bind mesothelin, the nanotubes spread apart a tiny bit, but enough that the electrical conductivity changes. Amplify that change by many nanotubes and it can be detected by an electrical meter. In the lab, Jack used a $50 meter from the Home Depot, but, he says, doctors can just as easily insert the paper test-strips into portable devices similar to those used by diabetics.

Just Jack

Documentarian Linda Peters created the 2012 short film “Just Jack” in the hopes of sharing Jack Andraka’s story and bringing awareness to the advancements coming in cancer detection and the massive affects it will create on survival rates.

Entitled “Just Jack”, the short film is currently a semi-finalist in the Focus Forward Film Contest and an “Audience Favorite”. Check out the video below and help spread the word on the work this teenage genius has done. You can connect with them on Twitter @JustJackFilms or Facebook.

A 15 year old boy from Maryland developed an early detection test for cancer that works and will save lives. What do you wonder about? What can you do today?


  1. Cancer Facts & Figures 2012. American Cancer Society. 2012
  2. The Alarming Rise of Pancreatic Cancer Deaths in the United States: Why We Need to Stem The Tide Today. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. 2012 Aug.
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The Good News About Cancer: You Can Reduce Your Risk Thu, 29 Nov 2012 04:41:00 +0000 The good news about cancerThis infographic from Rock Your Cause covers some important facts about cancer and offers six easy steps to reduce your risk.]]> The good news about cancer

Rock Your Cause is a socially conscious brand with a mandate of participative philanthropy, a fancy phrase we like that simply means giving anyone and everyone the chance to be involved and support causes they are passionate about. The organization is starting a global conversation about the causes of cancer and cancer prevention.

Although cancer is the leading cause of death in the world today [1], there’s many things you can do to reduce your cancer risk. The Rock Your Cause infographic below illustrates six easy steps to reduce your risk:

  1. Let food be thy medicine
  2. Stop getting drunk in the name of health
  3. Don’t be a couch potato, get some exercise
  4. Don’t smoke
  5. Protect or regret
  6. Be alert, know your risks and get routine checkups

Many of the facts presented in the infographic may be surprising, such as “9 out of 10 cancers are linked to environmental & lifestyle factors” and “30%-35% of cancer deaths can be linked to diet”. Here’s a few more:

You can follow Rock Your Cause on Twitter @RYCause or like the Rock Your Cause Facebook page. For more information on cancer, check out A Brief History of the War on Cancer and the Cancer channel here on Highlight HEALTH.

Infographic: The Good News About Cancer

The good news about cancer

Via: Rock Your Cause


  1. Cancer. World Health Organization. Accessed 2011 Nov 1.
The Great Prostate Cancer Challenge Fri, 21 Sep 2012 03:37:38 +0000 Indianapolis Great Prostate Cancer ChallengeOn Saturday, September 22, Urology of Indiana and ZERO -- The Project to End Prostate Cancer will be hosting the Great Prostate Cancer Challenge Indianapolis to raise awareness about prostate cancer.]]> Indianapolis Great Prostate Cancer Challenge

On Saturday, September 22, Urology of Indiana and ZERO — The Project to End Prostate Cancer will be hosting a huge event in Indianapolis — including a 5K race — to raise awareness about prostate cancer.

Indianapolis Great Prostate Cancer Challenge

The race is part of the Great Prostate Cancer Challenge, the premier men’s health race and event series in America, a heartfelt tight-knit community activity that brings together athletes, cancer survivors, physicians, caretakers, family members and friends.

This year, 34 cities across the US will host events to raise awareness and funds for research and free testing. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men (besides skin cancer). In 2012, 241,740 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed and it will claim 28,170 lives.

Nationwide, a man dies from the disease every 18 minutes. But there is hope — education about prostate cancer risk and access to preventive screening can save countless lives. Nearly, 100% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the early stages are still alive 5 years after diagnosis.

For Indianapolis, the Race Day Schedule of Events on Saturday September 22nd is:

  • 7:45am-9:00am Race Day Registration & Packet Pickup
  • 9:00am 5k run & 1 Mile walk
  • 9:00am-10:00am Post race celebration & activities
  • 10:00am 5k awards

The event will take place in the parking lots of the Urology of Indiana office at 12188 N. Meridian Street in Carmel, Indiana. The office is located on the west side of Meridian Street, just north of IU North Hospital.

Early packet pickup and onsite registration will be available on Friday 9/21 from 4:00pm-8:00pm at BlueMile an 146th St. in Carmel, Indiana.

If you’re a walker, runner or an endurance athlete, there’s an event for you. The Great Prostate Cancer Challenge Indianapolis is a great family event and all ages are welcome to participate. All runners and walkers will receive delicious treats and refreshments following the run. All proceeds from the Great Prostate Cancer Challenge Indianapolis will go to prostate research and free screenings in the Indianapolis, Indiana area.