Breast Cancer Prevention Study Wants YOU

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 3, 2000 | Go to article overview

Breast Cancer Prevention Study Wants YOU


Last summer, Edward Cancer Center in Naperville put out a call for a few good postmenopausal women. Jeannie Guenther, an efficient, high-energy 5th grade teacher in Naperville, answered that call, agreeing to be part of one of the largest breast cancer prevention studies ever attempted.

She had two very good reasons for joining this groundbreaking study: Her 59-year-old sister, Patty Boyle, died of breast cancer last year. And Guenther has a higher than normal risk of getting the disease.

"My sister was an extraordinary person," Guenther said. "You know how you meet some women and you just know they're special? Well, she was one of those. She was always helping people. She really gave to many, many people. When you lose someone like that, you ask what you can do yourself ... to help others."

This summer, Edward Cancer Center is putting out another call, hoping to recruit more women for the study, known as the Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene or STAR. Begun last summer nationwide, it is one of the largest breast cancer prevention studies ever attempted, according to Dr. Joseph J. Kash, M.D., professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and Director of Cancer Research at the Edward Cancer Center.

The study hopes to determine whether the osteoporosis prevention drug raloxifene (also known by the trade name Evista), is as effective in reducing the chance of developing breast cancer as tamoxifen has proven to be.

Researchers hope to involve 22,000 women in more than 400 centers across the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. Funded by the National Cancer Institute, it might well save millions of women's lives. Kash considers it one of the most significant studies ever attempted.

"When you think of the impact this will have for women in the future, it really is a monumental study. This may well change cancer prevention," Kash said.

No wonder that the cancer center is eager to recruit more women, over the age of 35 who are postmenopausal. After screening more than one hundred women, the Naperville center now has eight participants enrolled. More are needed, especially minority women.

"We don't want a study to reveal what's best for Caucasian women only. We want a study that provides information for all women," explained Jeanie Sixta, clinical research nurse and coordinator of the Naperville study.

Kash echoes that thought, stressing a sense of urgency, "We'd really like more women to take part because the more we can get to become a part of the study, the sooner we can get results."

There was little question for Guenther about volunteering for the study.

Her physician had already diagnosed her to be at increased risk for the disease, based on several factors, which include: a woman's age, family history of breast cancer, personal medical history, whether a woman has had children or her age when she delivered her first child; the number of breast biopsies a woman has had; and the age at her first menstrual period.

Guenther, who is in her early 50s, says being a part of such a study is a win/win situation. Where else, says the mother of two grown children, can you get the consistent monitoring and the most up-to-date prevention treatment? …

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