The Coffey – Holden Prostate Cancer Academy Meeting - Howard Soule and Charles Ryan

March 4, 2023

Howard Soule joins Charles Ryan to discuss the Coffey-Holden Prostate Cancer Academy, an annual scientific event hosted by the Prostate Cancer Foundation that mixes young and senior investigators to discuss diverse topics faced by men with advanced prostate cancer. The event aims to give young investigators a podium and an opportunity to interact with selected senior investigators. About 80% of the attendees are 30 or younger, and talks are only 10 minutes long, followed by 20 minutes of intense discussion. Attendees are limited to 75 or 80 people. A cohort of young investigators creates the agenda with the guidance of the PCF staff. The goal of the meeting is to immerse people in diverse science for four days.

Sponsoring the event can create a legacy for someone or their family and promote the careers of many young investigators. The Coffey-Holden Prostate Cancer Academy is a purely academic event and does not accept money from industry.

2023 Meeting: June 22 – 25, 2023, Luskin Center at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA


Howard Soule, PhD, Executive Vice President & Chief Science Officer, Prostate Cancer Foundation, Santa Monica, CA

Charles J. Ryan, MD, the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), the world’s leading philanthropic organization dedicated to funding life-saving prostate cancer research. Charles J. Ryan is an internationally recognized genitourinary (GU) oncologist with expertise in the biology and treatment of advanced prostate cancer. Dr. Ryan joined the PCF from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, where he served as Director of the Hematology, Oncology, and Transplantation Division in the Department of Medicine. He also served as Associate Director for Clinical Research in the Masonic Cancer Center and held the B.J. Kennedy Chair in Clinical Medical Oncology.

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For More Information or to Get Involved with the 2023 Meeting, Visit: The Coffey – Holden Prostate Cancer Academy (CHPCA) Meeting

Read the Full Video Transcript

Charles Ryan: If we are truly going to reduce the death and suffering from prostate cancer, if we are going to cure this disease, we need to take big risks. Who takes the biggest risks in our community? The young people with the brightest ideas and the most time ahead of them to make their ideas come to fruition.

For the past decade the Prostate Cancer Foundation has hosted an annual immersive scientific experience for our young investigators called the Coffey-Holden Prostate Cancer Academy. This is a very unique event that is recycled every year with new individuals where ideas come to the surface, are debated, are chewed on, and are modified and made better. I'm proud to sit today with Howard Soule, chief scientific officer of the Prostate Cancer Foundation to talk to us about the Prostate Cancer Academy called Coffey-Holden. Howard, good to see you. Tell us about the purpose of this meeting.

Howard Soule: So the Coffey-Holden Prostate Cancer Academy is an immersive scientific event that was conceived almost a decade ago by Ken Pienta, a medical oncologist from Hopkins, and myself. The purpose of which is to mix mainly young investigators, giving the young investigators a podium and an opportunity to interact with selected senior investigators around diverse topics faced by men with advanced prostate cancer. So there's a lot of basic science, there's a lot of translational science, and even some clinical applications are discussed.

Note, there are many aspects of this meeting that are unique. Number one, approximately 80% of the people in the room are 30 years of age or younger. They are all individually invited and we limit the attendance to about 75 or 80 people total.
Number two, the talks are only 10 minutes long, followed by 20 minutes of intense discussion. And if somebody wants to come back, we actually keep a heat map of who asks the questions, how many and the quality of their engagement at the conference. And each year, regardless of how engaged people are, we turn over at least 50% of the attendees.

And finally, the PCF staff, along with Dr. Pienta only serve as air traffic controllers. We have a cohort of approximately a half dozen young investigators, PCF funded young investigators who actually create the agenda. We help them, we direct them, we mentor them, but we leave most of the organization up to these people. It's nearly four days long, it starts very early in the morning. The only break we give people is a networking opportunity on Saturday afternoon. So if somebody wants to lead a group of surfers, we've done that before. We have another group that does personal training. A few people might hold up in their hotel rooms to work on a grant proposal or a scientific publication. But the goal of this meeting is to immerse people in diverse science for four days. And to my knowledge, there's nothing else like it.

Charles Ryan: You used the term immersive scientific experience, those words are chosen carefully. People come, they kind of retreat from the world, they share meals together, everybody stays in the same hotel. People aren't checking their emails or going off and doing calls and things like that during the middle of the day. It's really, you're there to be there. It's a very special meeting. And it's held in such high regard by the scientific community around the PCF that people hope they get invited and they're sad when they don't get invited, but they hope for next year.

Howard Soule: Or my phone rings off the hook for a couple of weeks when people find out the invitations have gone out, there's a lot of lobbying. But we have a pretty good formula of who should be there and who maybe could be there in subsequent years as they begin growing up in their own discipline.

Charles Ryan: So tell us how someone could create a real legacy for themselves or their family by sponsoring the Coffey-Holden meeting.

Howard Soule: This is a very pure conference, Dr. Ryan. There is no industry to support. In opposition to our scientific retreat, which is completely industry supported. Although, even at the scientific retreat the agenda is ours. And these are unrestricted awards to the foundation to promote education to physicians and scientists and physician scientists and everybody interested in advanced prostate cancer.

Coffey-Holden, on the other hand, is a small meeting. We don't ask for money from industry. Not that we don't love industry scientists and respect them very, very much. We want this to be purely academic. So funding it is very difficult and a legacy gift to support this conference for a number of years would first of all promote careers of many young investigators, make them better at what they do really well already, and would take the pressure off of PCF to come up with 250 or 300,000 dollars a year to fund it.
This is a very safe environment. People that come to the Coffey-Holden Prostate Cancer Academy know that nobody's going to steal their idea. Instead, quite the opposite. They're going to have an influx of people wanting to support and push them up and help them. It's all about risk taking, which is what our foundation funding model is. Almost everything that we fund is high risk, high reward, potentially. And as a result, not everything works, but we give at Coffey-Holden people a chance to share ideas that typical funding agencies would consider too out of the box, too unsafe, too unsure of the outcome to fund. We welcome these ideas, and many of them do turn into larger funding opportunities for a very smart group of people.

PCF has a rich track record of funding ideas, some of which have led to new treatments that other typical funding agencies like the National Cancer Institute would not fund. And why is that? Because typical funding agencies like incremental, step-by-step progression of ideas. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. But we take the risk in return for our quantum leap. For example, back in the early 2000s we were presented with an idea from Charles Sawyers that direct inhibition of the androgen receptor with an improved anti-androgen medicine would be a new treatment paradigm for metastatic prostate cancer. Nobody would fund Charles, nobody. We did. And that drug is now called enzalutamide. And hundreds of thousands of patients, if not now close to millions of patients all over the world, are receiving this life prolonging therapy that we were proud to fund in the very early stages. We took the risk and the patients received the reward.

Charles Ryan: To continue this immersive scientific event where people have risky ideas, get great feedback, and leave feeling energized to do the prostate cancer work that they're going to spend the rest of their lives doing. We need support for the Prostate Cancer Academy known as the Coffey-Holden meeting. Please consider supporting this immersive scientific experience that is pivotal to our growth as an organization and pivotal to the future of reducing the death and suffering from prostate cancer.