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News Room: ENQUIRER: St. E. recruiting for a mammoth cancer prevention study

To download a pdf of this article, please click here.

By: Mark Hansel

Joe Geraci can’t participate in the American Cancer Society’s upcoming study, but he is one of Northern Kentucky’s strongest advocates for the program.

Geraci, of Edgewood, is a lung cancer survivor and his wife, Marsha, has undergone successful treatment for breast cancer.

“Because we have had cancer, we are not eligible, but we are working with the American Cancer Society to wipe out cancer and help other people celebrate more birthdays,” Geraci said. “I’m signing up all of my children and any friends I can get.”

More birthdays is a major theme of Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3).

The goal of the study is to better understand the factors that cause or can prevent cancer and eliminate the disease for future generations.

Lisa Meier, health initiatives representative for the American Cancer Society in Northern Kentucky, said previous cancer studies have led to major breakthroughs in cancer prevention.

“The first study established the link between smoking and lung cancer,” Meier said. “Our latest cancer prevention study determined a sedentary lifestyle can lead to 10-plus cancer types, including colon cancer.”

Geraci learned he had cancer by accident.

In 2003, he participated in the Cincinnati Reds Dream Week Fantasy Camp and planned to play in a reunion game in September of that year. He developed pneumonia while getting in shape for the game, and while being treated doctors noticed a spot on his lung.

In February of 2004, he had the spot removed and two weeks later was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Geraci’s mother and a sister died after being diagnosed with cancer, but despite the family history, the disease still sneaked up on him. Only 15 percent of people with his type of cancer survive five years, so Geraci knows early diagnosis is critical.

“That’s why studies like CPS-3 are so important, so people can know the early signs and be ready if there is an issue,” he said.

The American Cancer Society is looking for 300,000 people nationwide and at least 500 from this area to participate in the study.

The number of local participants already signed up is about 530, but Meier said 20 percent of those who register will not take part for a variety of reasons.

“The people of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have an opportunity to be part of an historic cancer study,” Meier said. “This is the first of the cancer prevention studies where blood will be drawn.”

Advancements in genetic research provide an opportunity to identify markers and traits in families that could lead to preventive measures or early diagnoses that did not exist in previous studies.

Florence Mayor Diane Whalen has been an ardent supporter of the CPS-3 study and has volunteered to participate.

“Everyone has been touched by cancer, and when it happens, the first thing they ask is ‘What can I do?’ ” Whalen said. “You can cook a meal or visit someone, but after diagnosis what can be done is pretty limited. By participating in this cancer study anybody can help, and the more data they have the better the chance they can come up with answers.”

The study will span three decades, but participants will only have to make one trip to a St. Elizabeth Hospital later this month.

Meier said community partners such as St. Elizabeth make the study possible.

“St. Elizabeth has been a great partner, and they have encouraged their eligible employees to participate in the study as well,” Meier said. “The people we are looking for are between the ages of 30 and 65, who have never been diagnosed with cancer, except basalor squamous-cell skin cancer.”

People who have had cancer cannot participate because the body has been affected by the disease, treatment and/or lifestyle changes.

After the initial hospital visit, which takes about 30 minutes and includes a waist measurement and having blood drawn, participants will be mailed or emailed a survey every couple of years for the next 20 to 30 years. No additional study-related hospital visits are required.

“It’s not about the immediate,” Meier said. “It is about maybe helping to provide an opportunity for our children and grandchildren to get better treatment and ultimately bring an end to cancer.”

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