Thomaston native Kornelius Bankston is on the cutting edge of a new technology for early detection of prostate cancer. He is the co-founder of pH Medical Devices, a medical device company which is currently working to create a urine based test for early detection of the disease that is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, second to only lung cancer. Bankston and the company recently launched a social media campaign called “I am your…” to raise not only funding for the technology, but also awareness about prostate cancer.
“We came up with the idea for the campaign from the thought that men do not usually go to the doctor voluntarily, it is their wives, girlfriends, spouses or family that encourage them to go,” said Bankston. “ ‘I am your…’ also personalizes it to men because prostate cancer is not something we as men talk about at the gym or the barber shop. However we are hugely impacted by the disease; one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year and about 34,000 men will die from it as well. So, that is a huge, huge concern for me and then by being an African American male, you are twice as likely to die from it.”
Bankston is a former student government president and 1997 graduate of Upson Lee High School. While in high school, he served as NJROTC battalion commander, a founding member of Youth Alive, and a member of the charter class of Youth Leadership Upson. He is also a recipient of the Daughters of the American Revolution Citizenship Award and the Hightower Battalion Award. He has a B.S. in chemistry from Morehouse College, a Masters in biomolecular chemistry from Emory University, and a M.B.A. from the Georgia Institute of Technology. His parents are Earnestine Chaney and Dennis Colbert.
Bankston had an uncle who was impacted by prostate cancer, however he didn’t really like to talk about his experiences much and it was through his family dealing with the disease that helped spark the idea for the social media campaign. He continued, noting the campaign, which was launched on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in February, was also designed to help build an online community for people to share their testimonials of how they or a family member was affected and to offer support to others. Each day pictures with everyday people and facts about prostate cancer are posted on the group’s pages with the hope that others will be able to relate because “I am your…” can be your father, husband, brother, friend, co-worker or uncle.
There is technology to detect prostate cancer now, such as the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE) which are the first steps and standard methods physicians use to identify possible cases. Abnormal results from either tests usually lead to more testing that can include painful procedures like biopsies and bone scans and it has recently been reported that the PSA exam is only 25 to 35 percent accurate, which ultimately leads to misdiagnosis in some men.
Bankston and his team are working to create a urine-based test that could provide a more accurate reading that could eliminate the need for men having to endure more unnecessary painful, costly procedures. However they are in the early stages of the planning and still need help from the community to meet their goal of raising $50,000 by March 23, so they can move forward with the research and development portion of the project.
“We are working aggressively to get people to donate any dollar amount,” said Bankston. “One dollar to $300, it does not matter. We just want to try to get the word out so people can be aware of not only what we are doing, but also how it can impact their lives.”
According to Bankston, a urine-based test has not ever been done in the United States before, however it has been produced in Europe, but it was very expensive. The idea behind the test Bankston is working on now is to have it affordable to the masses.
“We are trying to change the margin so people, no matter what their socioeconomic status is, can afford to purchase it, or their physician can purchase it. That way people in rural or urban communities will be able to use it.”
The “I Am Your…” campaign will be in Thomaston this weekend at the Reimagine Thomaston event at Park Lane Play Place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., handing out prostate cancer information. If you would like to help contribute to the campaign or find out more information, visit www.iamyour.co, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Iamyour, Twitter at #Iamyour14 or on Instagram @Iamyour14.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1