American Cancer Society enrolling for new study

COVINGTON -- If you could help doctors diagnose cancer early, giving those with the disease a better chance at living, would you?

If you answered yes, the American Cancer Society has a proposal for you: Come to the Covington Family YMCA between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 2 or Saturday, March 9 and enroll in a study called the Cancer Prevention Study -- 3.

Enrollment requires reading and signing a consent form; completing a survey packet that asks for information on lifestyle, behavioral and other factors related to health; measurement of waist circumference; and a blood sample. Follow up surveys will be sent to participants every three to five years -- the study will be ongoing for the next 20 to 30 years.

It's the blood sample that makes this study unique -- for the first time, researchers will be able to take data from follow-up surveys and look at the blood samples supplied at the time of enrollment to get a better understanding of what to look for in the blood to diagnose cancer.

"Many individuals diagnosed with cancer struggle to answer the question 'What caused my cancer?' In many cases, we don't know the answer," said Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., principal investigator of CPS-3. "CPS-3 will help us better understand what factors cause cancer, and once we know that, we can be better equipped to prevent cancer."

The CPS-3 is the largest study of its kind ever conducted, said American Cancer Society Area Executive Director Karen Lewis, with a goal of enrolling 300,000 or more people in the United States and Puerto Rico; 5,000 in metro Atlanta; and 200 in Covington.

"It is a safe, secure, blind study; no one would ever be able to match your name with your blood results," she said. "The information is kept secure in two separate locations with only an assigned number to the information, and not your name."

Lewis said people often ask if their blood will be tested to determine if they have cancer. Her response is, "Gosh, wouldn't that be nice?" That's the ultimate goal of the study, in fact -- to find a way to establish a blood test or other simple test that could be conducted at a visit to a physician's office to diagnose cancer. Lewis said a majority of participants in these types of studies have a family history of cancer, and their participation is crucial, as there may be something in the blood that researchers can pinpoint.

Blood tests are already being developed by University of Georgia researchers to diagnose ovarian, breast and pancreatic cancers, Lewis said.

Although there will never be one cure for cancer, because different types require different treatments, advancements could result in cancer patients being able to take a pill for treatment and live with the disease the way people currently live with high blood pressure, Lewis said. People are living longer than they did 20 years ago and new drugs have been developed through research by the American Cancer Society to effectively treat certain cancers, she said.

Past studies conducted by the American Cancer Society have proven the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer; the connection between larger waist size and increased death rates from cancer and other causes; and the impact of lifestyle behaviors and food choices.

Enrollment in the study is taking place at 21 locations in metro Atlanta in March. Men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer, with the exception of basal or squamous cell skin cancer, are eligible.

For more information and to make an appointment at the local YMCA, visit www.cps3atlanta.org. Information can also be obtained by calling 1-888-604-5888. Rockdale residents and residents of other counties may also enroll at the Covington YMCA.