Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial Enrolls Area Men

Article excerpt

Byline: The Health Files by Tim Christie The Register-Guard

MOST MEN, if they live long enough, will develop prostate cancer. It may never cause them to be sick or be seen by a doctor, but autopsy studies have found more than 50 percent of men who live into their 80s will have at least a little cancer in their prostate when they die.

In younger men, prostate cancer can be a killer, though it's highly treatable when caught early.

"Most guys who know about prostate cancer know it might be in their future," said Dr. David Fryefield, medical director at Willamette Valley Cancer Center in Eugene.

But what if prostate cancer could be prevented through a dietary supplement? How many lives would be spared, and how many millions of dollars in treatment costs would be saved if scientists could reduce the incidence of prostate cancer?

That's what the scientists directing a massive clinical trial hope to find out during the next dozen years. The study will determine if two dietary supplements - Vitamin E and selenium - can prevent prostate cancer, either working alone or in tandem.

Willamette Valley Cancer Center is one of 400 sites in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico enrolling patients in the trial. Healthy men 55 and older are eligible to participate. Black men can enroll at age 50, because they tend to get prostate cancer at a younger age.

The prostate is a doughnut-shaped gland surrounding the neck of the bladder and the urethra. It produces the milky liquid that carries the sperm in semen.

Mike BeBout, a Eugene locomotive engineer, is one of two men to enroll so far in the trial at Willamette Valley Cancer Center. BeBout's father died of prostate cancer when he was 86, and he knows that family history puts him at greater risk of developing prostate cancer. That, and the fact his wife, Donna, survived ovarian cancer, inspired him to participate in the trial. He's a regular blood donor and he liked the idea of contributing to science.

"It sounded like a fairly painless trial," he said.

Patients are screened for prostate cancer before enrolling by getting a digital rectal exam and a test that measures the levels of a protein called prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, in the blood.

Patients are put into one of four groups, and neither they nor the clinic site know which: One group will get Vitamin E and selenium pills; one will get Vitamin E and a placebo; one will get selenium and a placebo; and one will get a double placebo.

The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, or SELECT for short, is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and is coordinated by the Southwest Oncology Group in San Antonio, Texas. Study coordinators plan to enroll men for five years and conduct the trial for 12 years. …