This article was first published in the UCH Insider at the University of Colorado Hospital, the University of Colorado Cancer Center’s adult patient care partner. To subscribe to the UCH Insider, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tyler Smith
It’s too late for Marc Bingham to benefit from the prostate cancer fighting therapies the Urologic Oncology Clinic at University of Colorado Hospital envisions for the future. But that hardly means he’s conceded defeat.
I hate to lose at anything,” the highly successful 70-year-old businessman and entrepreneur said during a phone interview last week. “I’d rather take a beating.”
That attitude goes a long way toward explaining why Bingham created a five-year, $2 million endowment to help Urologic Oncology develop technologies to find early-stage tumors and treat them without harming healthy gland tissue. The money, to be released in installments four times a year, will also pay for marketing to recruit patients for research
It’s an approach that promises vast improvements in quality of life for tens of thousands of men. Those who undergo total prostatectomies or radiation frequently endure severe side effects, including erectile dysfunction and incontinence, while their chances of survival improve only marginally.
A prostatectomy was precisely what Bingham wastrying to avoid when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer a decade ago. “I talked to several of my buddies,” he said. “I heard the war stories. I didn’t want to lose my sexuality. I had a great fear of incontinence.”
Nonetheless, he ultimately had no choice but to allow surgeons to remove his prostate. Then his cancer returned. Bingham went through 38 radiation treatments, then a period of “watchful waiting” and tried herbal treatments before he learned two-and-a-half years ago from a friend “about a guy out of Denver” he might want to see. The guy turned out to be E. David Crawford, MD, head of the Urologic Oncology section at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and a provider at UCH.
Because Bingham had recurring cancer that had spread, Crawford treated it with pills to block production of the male hormone testosterone, which encourages prostate cancer cells to grow. After three months, Bingham said, his cancer cell count “leveled off.” He’d also formed a bond with Crawford.
“We became friends,” Bingham related. Crawford explained the advances he and his Urologic Oncology colleagues, including Director of Research Al Barqawi, MD, FRCS, had made in finding and destroying prostate tumors, mainly through freezing but also with lasers, while preserving non-cancerous tissue.
There could well be other workable therapies on the horizon, he added, but discovering whether or not they are viable would require additional funding.
Second chance for somebody
“I said I wished I’d had that opportunity,” Bingham recalled. “I saw it as a chance to save somebody else’s life.”
Bingham, founder and chief executive officer of Blue Diamond Capital, an investment group based in Orem, Utah, eventually brought his chief financial officer along for a visit with Crawford at UCH.
“They rolled out the red carpet for me,” Bingham said. “What we heard about what they’re trying to do made sense.”
The $2 million endowment represents only a tiny fraction of the donations Bingham has made since he sold Phone Directories Co., a firm he created in Utah in 1971 to compete with established phonebook companies, for $150 million in 2007. At the time of the sale, Phone Directories Co. had spread to multiple states in the U.S. as well as the Canadian provinces.
He’s given away tens of millions of dollars to Utah Valley University, Utah State University and the College of Eastern Utah to help fund expansion of its Prehistoric Museum in Price, Utah. Another $4.5 million went to Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, a hunting and wildlife conservation organization.
Bingham said he plans to come back to the hospital at six-month intervals to see how Urologic Oncology’s work is progressing. He’d like to see men become more willing to talk about prostate cancer, including how to recognize and how to treat it.
“You play with the cards you’re dealt with each day,” he said. “Whatever the outcome is, it’s okay to talk about it.” And he hopes the endowment for Urologic Oncology gives other men with prostate cancer a chance that came to late for him. “My donations are to help mankind and youth down the road. That’s what you call progress.”