Women's Health Initiative: $55.4 million extension to 2015

Latest stage of landmark study focuses on cardiovascular events, healthy aging
Drs. Garnet Anderson (left) and Andrea LaCroix
Public Health Sciences Division's Drs. Garnet Anderson (left) and Andrea LaCroix. Center News file photo

With a recent award of $55.4 million to the Hutchinson Center from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for continued coordination of the study through 2015, the Women’s Health Initiative is embarking on its next phase of research.

The Center is home to the study's coordinating hub, led by principal investigator Dr. Garnet Anderson of the Public Health Sciences Division.

The extension study will promote greater use of the vast WHI data and biologic specimen resources by current and former WHI investigators, as well as outside researchers. For the thousands of women still completing follow-up health questionnaires, the study will focus on cardiovascular events and aging. The researchers also aim to develop new intervention trials in aging women based on the study’s findings. A portion of the funding supports activities subcontracted to other institutions.

The WHI was launched in 1991 and consisted of a set of clinical trials and an observational study, which together involved more than 161,000 postmenopausal women. One of the largest U.S. prevention studies of its kind, the project was designed to address the most frequent causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in older women.

The clinical trials were designed to test the effects of postmenopausal hormone therapy, diet modification, and calcium and vitamin D supplements on heart disease, fractures, and breast and colorectal cancer. Those studies ended in 2004. More than 115,000 WHI participants have continued to provide health information since 2005. Women still in the study have been invited to share their health data for this latest follow-up phase.

Among the WHI’s many contributions to women’s health, its discovery that hormone-replacement therapy can increase a woman's risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease is the most prominent. This finding quickly decreased the use of hormone-replacement therapy nationwide, which led to a decline in breast cancer rates.

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