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Lung cancer study at Martin Memorial seeks 720 volunteers

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http://www1.tcpalm.com/tcp/local_news/a ... 19,00.html



July 5, 2006

STUART — Anthony Hanbury was a boy in the 1940s, when scientific warnings about cigarette smoking were unknown and society embraced the habit.

He remembers that when adults crowded the living room of his family's Boston home, tobacco smoke was thick enough for him and his brother to make a game of lying down on the floor and poking holes in the haze overhead.

Hanbury starting smoking in his early teens and quit in 1984.

"For me, it was the most difficult thing I ever had to do," he said.

Last February, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Part of his right lung was removed and Hanbury is halfway through 16 weeks of chemotherapy.

He also has volunteered for a study being conducted at hospitals and clinics across the country, including Martin Memorial Health Systems' Robert and Carol Weissman Cancer Center.

Its purpose is to determine why women are more likely than men to get certain types of lung cancer and to learn if factors other than smoking put women at higher risk for lung cancer than men.

And since only one in 10 people who smoke get lung cancer, the study hopes to shed light on factors associated with lung cancer in men and women who do not smoke.

The goal is to recruit about 720 people diagnosed with cancer who are willing to share a sample of tumor tissue, give a blood sample and fill out a questionnaire.

The study involves no drugs and provides no direct benefit to participants. But Hanbury said he didn't mind — as long as it raised awareness of the sometimes-hidden danger of lung cancer.

"I want people to be aware that they can have it and not know," he said.

Hanbury said he had no symptoms of lung cancer when a medical imaging procedure looking for kidney stones showed a tumor the size of a golf ball on his lower right lung.

One of the problems with lung cancer is that there is no easy, inexpensive test to screen for it, said Wendy Ryzner, a registered nurse and clinical research program coordinator at Martin Memorial. Detecting lung cancer early, before it spreads to other parts of the body, greatly improves chances of recovery.

"Chest X-rays don't usually show early cancer," Ryzner said.

Computerized axial tomography — CAT scans — will, but are too expensive to be part of routine physicals, she said.

Ryzner said the cancer study might identify genetic markers and hormone levels which, when combined with a patient's medical history, would indicate a need to scan for lung cancer.

"Based on what they find in this study, we may want to screen some people for lung cancer," she said.

Such screening could find more lung cancer victims during the earlier stages of the disease, improving chances for survival.

Debbie Lewandowski, a registered nurse and director of oncology services at Martin Memorial's Cancer Center, said 75 percent of lung cancers are identified after they have spread to other parts of the body. The five-year survival rate for such advanced lung cancer is about 5 percent, she said.

Patients whose lung cancer is found in only one area and can be completely removed by surgery have a five-year survival rate of 85 percent, Lewandowski said.

"My goal is to start a lung cancer screening program," she said.

Hanbury said he is now "infuriated" by smoking and is especially bothered when he sees a young person puffing on a cigarette.

"I want to rip it out of their hand," he said. "Now, after all I've been through, I feel like saying to them, 'You fool! Don't you know what you're doing to yourself?'"

Lung cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of both men and women in the United States. Quitting smoking lowers the risk as the years pass, but is never completely gone.

Men have higher rates of lung cancer than women. But rates have been decreasing in men and increasing in women.

By the numbers

Year the Surgeon General announced smoking can cause lung cancer: 1964

Estimated U.S. lung cancer deaths in 2005: 163,510

Estimated lung cancer cases caused by smoking: 87 percent

Estimated Americans living with lung cancer: 350,679

Expected five-year survival rate: 15 percent

Five-year survival rate for cases detected early: 49 percent

Lung cancer cases diagnosed early: 16 percent

How to help

Anyone recently diagnosed with lung cancer who wants information on the lung cancer study can phone Martin Memorial Cancer Center Clinical Research Program Coordinator Wendy Ryzner at (772) 223-5945 ext. 3718.

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