SEATTLE — Dec. 19, 2002 — Many people start the new year with well-intentioned resolutions that by mid-January often seem as stale and unappealing as the holiday cookie crumbs hiding under their couch cushions. Those seeking a little extra incentive to get off the couch and make a difference in 2003 might consider volunteering to support or participate in cancer research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Opportunities range from providing practical and social support to cancer patients and their families — from transporting them to and from the airport to offering companionship through visits and social outings — to participating in cancer-prevention research studies.
Several prevention studies currently are seeking local healthy participants. They include an exercise study to assess the effect of physical activity on colon-cancer risk, food studies to help determine how fruits and vegetables may influence the body's cancer-fighting ability, and drug studies that evaluate the potential of various cancer-prevention agents (please see sidebar for a list of studies currently accepting self-referrals).
In addition to the satisfaction of helping in the fight against cancer, the side benefits of participating in prevention research — depending on the study — could include working out for a year at a state-of-the-art exercise facility under the guidance of an exercise specialist, receiving a month of free prepared meals, getting free cancer screenings and earning some extra cash.
"For many, Fred Hutchinson is synonymous with advancements in cancer treatment such as the bone-marrow transplant. But there is another, very important type of world-class research being conducted at Fred Hutchinson: cancer prevention research," said Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., center president and director. "This is one area of the cancer fight in which nearly anyone and everyone can participate."
Fred Hutchinson's Public Health Sciences Division, the largest of the center's four scientific domains, is home to the nation's oldest and largest program devoted to cancer-prevention research. Using populations as their "laboratory," public-health researchers look for links between cancer and its possible triggers, from diet and lifestyle to environmental and genetic factors. Identifying such cancer causes can lead to better cancer-detection methods and new ways to help people adopt healthier lifestyles to minimize or avoid their risk of getting the disease.
John Potter, M.D., Ph.D., an international expert on cancer causes and prevention, heads the division, which was established in 1983.
"It is estimated that as much as 60 percent of all cancers could be prevented through simple lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, watching your weight, eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits and exercising regularly. It also is important to get screened regularly for cervical, breast and colorectal cancer to ensure that any cancers that do develop in these organs are caught early," Potter said, referring to the importance of Pap smears, mammograms and sigmoidoscopy, respectively.
To learn more about Fred Hutchinson prevention studies that are accepting eligible participants, visit Volunteer Studies webpage or call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service, 1-800-4-CANCER. For information about becoming a patient/family volunteer, visit the Patient & Family Volunteer Services Program webpage. www.fhcrc.org/donating/other/volservices/.
The APPEAL Study — The purpose of the APPEAL study, which stands for "A Program Promoting Exercise and Active Lifestyles," is to examine the effect of exercise on markers of colon-cancer risk. Funded by the National Cancer Institute, it is the first study of its kind to look at how a program of regular exercise may lower certain risk factors of colon cancer. Participants in this study will have an opportunity to exercise at a state-of-the-art fitness facility under the guidance of an exercise specialist.
The Breast Gel Study — This study, funded by Besins International U.S., Inc., seeks to determine whether a tamoxifen-based gel, when applied to the breasts daily for six months, decreases breast density — a cancer-risk factor — in premenopausal women.
The DIGEST Study — The Dietary Influences on Glucuronidation (DIGEST) Study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, is one of two studies being conducted at Fred Hutchinson that seek to determine how the interplay of genes and diet — in particular, a diet rich in plant compounds — may affect the function of the body's detoxifying machinery. A subset of participants in the DIGEST study will be asked to complete a month-long feeding study during which Fred Hutchinson will provide all meals.
Northwest Cancer Genetics Network — The Northwest Cancer Genetics Network, part of a national registry funded by the National Cancer Institute, has been set up to help researchers answer important questions about inherited cancer risks. Participation involves completing a 15- to 20-minute telephone interview and being re-contacted periodically for updates. The information will be collected from people at all levels of cancer risk and entered into a confidential database. Participants will receive a newsletter with regular updates on the latest developments in cancer research, and information about studies for which they are eligible to participate.
Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Study — This nationwide, multi-center study of women with a strong family history of ovarian cancer, funded by the National Cancer Institute, investigates whether a blood test known as CA125 (a biomarker, or chemical, found in the blood) is useful for early detection of ovarian cancer among women at increased risk for the disease. The advantages of participating in this study include having one's gynecological health closely monitored.
SELECT Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial — The primary objective of this National Cancer Institute-funded study, a 12-year initiative that will involve 32,400 men in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, is to determine whether vitamin E and the trace element selenium can protect men against prostate cancer.
The STAR Study — The Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR) is a national breast-cancer prevention study, conducted locally at Fred Hutchinson and five satellite sites, to determine whether the osteoporosis drug raloxifene is as effective as tamoxifen in reducing breast-cancer risk. This National Cancer Institute-funded initiative seeks to enroll 11,000 participants.
# # #
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home of two Nobel Prize laureates, is an independent, nonprofit research institution dedicated to the development and advancement of biomedical technology to eliminate cancer and other potentially fatal diseases. Fred Hutchinson receives more funding from the National Institutes of Health than any other independent U.S. research center. Recognized internationally for its pioneering work in bone-marrow transplantation, the center's four scientific divisions collaborate to form a unique environment for conducting basic and applied science. Fred Hutchinson, in collaboration with its clinical and research partners, the University of Washington Academic Medical Center and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Pacific Northwest and is one of 38 nationwide. For more information, visit the center's Web site at www.fhcrc.org.