American Cancer Society looking for study volunteers in Tulsa
BY NOUR HABIB World Scene Writer
Monday, September 10, 2012
9/10/12 at 4:39 AM
What if you could help find a way to prevent cancer? Or be a factor in helping stop the progression of Alzheimer's in future patients? Or be the reason a new, more effective drug for heart conditions has made it to the market?
Doctors and researchers are constantly conducting studies - whether observational or clinical - to reach such outcomes, and they need volunteers to participate in them.
This week, the American Cancer Society is recruiting volunteers in the Tulsa area to sign up for its newest study.
Lesa Foster, the society's regional vice president in Oklahoma, said the study - which will look at individuals' health history, environment and lifestyle - has the potential to help researchers determine the causes of cancer, which would in turn equip them to prevent the disease.
The society is seeking 300,000 participants nationwide, 2,000 of them from Oklahoma, who are between the ages of 30 and 65 and have never been diagnosed with cancer. Sign-up appointments, which last about 30 minutes, are ongoing through Sunday in several locations throughout the Tulsa area.
The initial appointment is the only in-person commitment and will include a blood sample and body measurements. After that, participants will answer follow-up surveys every other year for 20 to 30 years.
"The time investment really is small compared to the possibility for the outcome," said Foster, who signed up for this study three years ago during an American Cancer Society national convention.
This is the society's third cancer prevention study, but this is the first time an enrollment opportunity has been targeted at Oklahomans. The society's previous study began in 1982 and is still ongoing.
"It's really a unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved," Foster said.
Local doctors and researchers who conduct clinical studies - studies that test out new treatments, such as drugs or medical devices - also say those who participate in the research efforts are doing society a valuable service.
Jolene Durham, a longtime research coordinator at the Oklahoma Heart Institute - which conducts trials on numerous new heart medications and devices, like pacemakers and defibrillators - said most patients who participate in their studies do it for altruistic reasons.
"A majority of patients say, 'If this doesn't help me, it will at least maybe help my family in the future,' " Durham said.
Ralph Richter, a doctor specializing in neurology and psychiatry who founded Tulsa Clinical Research more than 25 years ago, said research is a slow process.
Over the years, Richter has conducted more than 200 studies at his center, 90 of them related to Alzheimer's, his specialty. Those 90 studies led to only five drugs that reached the market.
Although the center focuses on Alzheimer's, it has also conducted studies on diabetes, obesity, Tourette syndrome and depression. Current studies the center is involved with include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder.
Richter's wife, Brigitte - who is the center's CEO and medical writer - said she and her husband try to get into the fields "where people really suffer."
But the public's willingness to participate in clinical trials is "extremely low," Brigitte Richter said, mainly because people don't know about the studies or are not aware of what it means to be part of such a study.
Durham said, "Sometimes patients will say, 'Oh, am I going to be a guinea pig?' "
The Richters and Durham said this is not the case. Clinical trials are monitored by the FDA, and researchers follow strict protocols.
In fact, Brigitte Richter said treatment through clinical trials can even be safer than traditional treatment because patients are so closely monitored through frequent follow-ups.
Durham said patients are also exposed to "cutting edge" care, getting an opportunity to access treatments that are not yet available to others. And most of the time, patients participating in clinical trials receive their treatment for free.
But finding participants for studies is not as simple as signing up volunteers. Individuals must usually have to have the particular disease or disorder that the researchers are working on - or be identified as prone to it, in the case of such diseases as Alzheimer's.
Patients who think they may be eligible to participate in certain studies can talk to their doctors.
Cancer prevention study
Researchers are looking for 2,000 Oklahomans between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer. Sign-up appointments last about 30 minutes.
7-10:30 a.m. Tuesday, American Cancer Society office, 4110 S. 100th East Ave.
4-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, 1301 S. Boston Ave.
4-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, 100 W. Albany St. in Broken Arrow
7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Thursday, St. John Medical Center, 1919 S. Wheeling Ave.
7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Friday, Thornton Family YMCA, 5002 S. Fulton Ave.
9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sunday, First United Methodist Church, 1115 S. Boulder Ave.
For more information about the Oklahoma Heart Institute, visit tulsaworld.com/oklahomaheart or call 918-592-0999.
For information about Tulsa Clinical Research, visit tulsaworld.com/tulsaclinicalresearch or call 918-743-2349.
For more information about the American Cancer Society's cancer prevention study, visit tulsaworld.com/cancerstudy or call 1-888-604-5888.
Original Print Headline: Medical study looking for volunteers in Tulsa area
Nour Habib 918-581-8369
Dr. Ralph Richter conducts a memory screening for a new patient. Richter also conducts clinical trials for diseases such as Alzheimer's and knows the importance of study participants. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World