Study to analyze cancer survival


POSTED: Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Hawaii Tumor Registry will ask 1,500 residents recently diagnosed with cancer to participate in a study to learn how lifestyle and genes affect development and survival of cancer patients.

“;What we're trying to do is create a cohort study out of all people who get cancer in the state so we can do something about increasing survival time and monitoring some of the cancer-control activities initiated over the past decade,”; said Dr. Marc Goodman, who will lead the study.

Goodman, Cancer Research Center of Hawaii professor and principal investigator of the registry, said the researchers “;want to have a mechanism where we can really see, for example, if the tobacco tax had an effect on tobacco-related cancer like it has in California.”;

Lung cancer rates there have fallen in nearly all age groups, presumably because of the tobacco tax and fewer people smoking, he said.

Goodman said the initial effort will be a pilot study, with participants sought by letters to be sent this summer to represent both sexes and all ethnic groups in the state to gauge response. About 100 letters will be sent at a time “;to see what kind of questions and calls we get,”; he said.

Many people with cancer probably don't realize they are part of the Tumor Registry, operated by the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and state Health Department, because cancer is a reportable illness, he said.

Information explaining this will be included in the letter, as well as a simple questionnaire and small Scope mouthwash kit, he said.

Participants would gargle as they do normally and spit the mouthwash into a container to preserve the DNA for research purposes, he said. Another method of collecting DNA would be used for someone who couldn't tolerate the mouthwash, he said.

About 6,700 islanders annually are diagnosed with cancer, Goodman said. Eventually, all newly diagnosed patients will be asked “;to help us with resource building”; for research activities and monitoring, he said.

Participation is voluntary and personal information is confidential.

“;It's going to be an amazing activity,”; Goodman said, noting colleagues at the National Institutes of Health are excited because of Hawaii's ethnic diversity and potential of the data to indicate why some people respond to therapy and survive cancer and others don't.

“;We can look at genes to predict how responsive people are to various therapeutic regimens,”; he said, pointing out there are many research questions.

An international study last year showed Hawaii had the best cancer survival rates in the nation.

“;I view Hawaii as being a flagship or beacon for other people,”; Goodman said. “;We have to understand why certain people survive and why some live longer. This will help us answer some of those questions we wouldn't be able to otherwise.”;

Goodman said he had the idea for the study a few years ago but state law had to be changed—which was done last year—allowing the registry to send out questionnaires and collect biological specimens without their physician's permission.

He said the National Cancer Institute has provided some funding for the study and he will give the NCI a presentation in the fall about how it's working.




The Hawaii Tumor Registry

        » Is one of the oldest cancer registries in the nation, established in 1960 by the Hawaii Medical Association, state Department of Health and American Cancer Society, Hawaii Pacific Division.

» Maintains a database of information on all cases of cancer diagnosed in Hawaii (about 179,757 between 1960 and 2006) and is a major source of cancer data locally, nationally and internationally.


» Serves as a resource for all epidemiologic cancer research and cancer control activities in the state.


» Has received primary funding from the National Cancer Institute since 1973 as one of the registries in its nationwide Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (NCI/SEER) program.