You’ve likely heard the expression “we can accomplish more together than we can alone.”
This rings true when it comes to studying and fighting cancer.
Sanford Health has recently joined the National Cancer Institute’s Connect for Cancer Prevention Study. The nationwide study looks to identify how certain factors, like geographical location or occupation, may lead to a cancer diagnosis later in life.
Fargo, North Dakota-based Sanford Health research project manager DeAnn Witte said the length of the study sets it apart from others.
“It’s a long-term study over the course of 10-plus years, of healthy individuals,” she said.
It’s not only a long-term study. It’s also a big study. Organizers are hoping to enroll 200,000 people.
The “healthy individuals” component is important and what makes the study unique, says Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health research project manager Amanda Mensing.
“The study is one of the first that enrolls people before they ever get cancer. I know a lot of research studies focus on patients when they get cancer, whereas this one looks at people before with no indication that they would get cancer,” she said.
Sanford Health is one of nine health care systems enrolled in the study. The entirety of the U.S. is represented in the study, said principal investigator of Sanford BioBank Chun-Hung Chan, Ph.D.
“There is representation from the East Coast, the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest. We even have a location in Hawaii,” he said.
Dr. Chan, as the director of Sanford BioBank, has worked with the National Cancer Institute for years. A few years back, he was invited by the NCI to present about Sanford Research and what the health care provider is doing as part of Sanford BioBank.
After that presentation, Dr. Chan said the NCI approached him about participating in the study. Sanford Health applied to be a part of the study and was approved.
“It was quite an honor. What we are doing here, they were impressed with and saw the value of including Sanford Health in this important new study,” he said.
“I think that says Sanford Health has started to be recognized as a leader in research.”
How to enroll
Dr. Chan said patients can enroll through their Sanford Health primary care provider, or through the My Sanford Chart app.
If they qualify, enrollees can expect to answer questions about their health history, their geographical location, their occupation, and other background information.
The information will be used to identify the potential for developing cancer later in life.
“So, obviously in the Midwest there’s a lot of farming. They might look at farming and potential exposures to agricultural chemicals, then tie that back with where you actually live, and see whether there’s a potential that you were exposed to some sort of pesticide and if there’s maybe a link between that and developing cancer.
“So, really they’re using a variety of different information, as well as the information that we provide and that the participant provides themselves to really get a comprehensive picture of, what is it that the participant may have been exposed to at some point that may result in developing cancer,” said Dr. Chan.
Why it’s important
Mensing said enrolling in this study is important because, through the study, enrollees can say they were able to help future cancer patients.
“We’re looking at a benefit to the general knowledge of cancer in terms of how it could develop and that could impact future generations and help prevent cancer by determining causes and the risks associated with it. So much of it is a long-term impact looking at doing a study that could impact future generations and the participants’ children or grandchildren,” she said.
“More than likely someone has been touched somehow by cancer,” added Witte. “Whether it be through a relative or close friend or co-worker, we all kind of know people that have had to go through cancer treatment. This is a way for those people to feel like they’re helping and feel like they’re contributing to the cause.”
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