Urologic Oncologist Advocates for Prostate Cancer Screening

Compton Benjamin, M.D., Ph.D., RESD '09, warns against eliminating PSA-based prostate cancer screening for African Americans and other high-risk populations.

Compton Benjamin, M.D., Ph.D., RESD ’09, assistant professor of urology at GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), regularly treats patients for everything from kidney, prostate, and testicular cancer to kidney stones and erectile dysfunction. But his special interest is in bladder cancer, a subject that captivated him during his urologic oncology fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in 2010.

“As a fellow, I worked on a project that involved a mouse model for treating superficial bladder cancer using a proprietary substance,” Benjamin said. “It showed that we could eradicate cancer in the bladder by using a substitute for Bacillus Calmette-Guérin.”

Since joining the SMHS faculty in 2011, Benjamin has focused on teaching and clinical practice, but he is looking forward to getting back into research with a Phase 1 clinical trial for his interleukin project. “In medicine, a person comes in front of you and you try to deduce what the problem is and fix it. You get instant gratification when you’re successful,” Benjamin says. “But research is often just one small subject that you’re trying to expand the knowledge about to infinity. That can be frustrating, but it can also be very exciting.”

Benjamin, a Queens, N.Y. native, says he enjoys the collegial atmosphere at SMHS. “Not just within urology, but also within the other departments that you can collaborate with,” he says. He is particularly grateful to have had the opportunity to team up on complex surgical cases with talented colleagues such as James Robinson, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at SMHS and director of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery at the GW Medical Faculty Associates (MFA), and Vincent Obias, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at SMHS. “You have so many different organs in close proximity  to each other [in the body],” says Benjamin. “When something goes wrong you can have three experts put their heads together, while still protecting their own organ, and solve the problem,” he says.

When he’s not practicing medicine or conducting research, Benjamin can be found advocating for the reversal of the 2012 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation against PSA-based screening for prostate cancer. “The African American population has almost twice the risk of getting prostate cancer as the general population, and also the risk of having more aggressive disease,” he says. “I think we can help by making sure that we don’t completely eliminate screening, because this high-risk population can really benefit from it.” Benjamin and Thomas Jarrett, M.D., chair of the Department of Urology at SMHS, presented these recommendations at the Prostate Health Education Network’s (PHEN) African American Prostate Cancer Disparity Summit on Sept. 19. “The PHEN conference was a great forum for us to talk about the need to continue screening,” says Benjamin, “especially in patients that are African American or have a family history of prostate cancer and thus have a higher risk of dying of prostate cancer.”

Find more information about the SMHS Department of Urology here.