Utahns' participation in 20 years of research may help prevent, cure cancer

Nov 18 2012 - 12:01am

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OGDEN -- Miriam Storey doesn't have a family history of cancer, but she knows plenty of people with the disease, so she signed up to participate in a cancer-prevention study in the hopes of one day finding a cure.

"If this will help find a cure or help us learn more ways to prevent cancer, I'm on board," said the North Ogden resident. "Just filling out the paperwork really made me stop and think about my own health.

"Am I taking care of myself? Am I getting enough exercise and eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day? It really causes you to stop and reflect on ways you can be helping yourself."

All week, Nov. 13-17, people across the state had the unprecedented opportunity to enroll as participants in research that could eliminate cancer for their own generation as well as future generations, said Lex Olsen, director of the Cancer Prevention Study 3.

The study is funded and managed by the American Cancer Society's department of epidemiology and surveillance research program.

Participants include men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer and are willing to be followed for at least 20 years.

Enrollment was held Friday in Ogden and Layton. Participants were asked to read and sign a consent form, complete a survey, have their waist circumference measured and have their blood drawn.

"The blood we take today will be put on ice and sent to our processing lab in Maryland to be stored for later use," said Lauren Teras, a researcher and American Cancer Society senior epidemiologist in Atlanta.

"We will be looking at a myriad of things in the blood, from genetics and DNA to proteins, infections and pollutants."

Every couple of years, updated information will be obtained from participants, Olsen said. As cancer or other diseases appear over time, they will be compared with participants who did not develop the diseases.

Researchers hope doing this will help them understand the differences in lifestyle, environments and genetic factors between people who develop cancer and those who don't.

In addition, participants diagnosed with cancer during the study will be asked for written permission to seek more information about their diagnoses and treatment.

Olsen said researchers hope the study will find the identifiers that cause and prevent cancer, leading to an elimination of the disease.

This is the third study of its kind, Olsen said. The first two played a significant role in understanding the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, among other things.

Study participants will not receive any payment. However, Olsen said, they will be providing the valuable information it takes to learn about the causes of cancer and other diseases and may be instrumental in finding preventives and cures.

"I lost my dad to thyroid cancer when I was 19," Olsen said. "My kids never got to know their grandpa. I want my kids and all kids to have a dad and grandkids to have a grandpa and so on.

"We want to help put more candles on your birthday cake. We want a world with less cancer and more birthdays. We want it so no one ever has to hear the words, 'You have cancer.' "

Researchers hope to recruit 300,000 participants nationwide for this study.

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