Volume 2, Number 1 ----- Spring/Summer 1999
The Henry Ford Health System, a PLCO screening center, is one of the largest health care systems in Michigan. This large network of health care facilities allows Henry Ford to offer participants a choice of three clinic locations spread across Southeastern Michigan. Two clinics are within 10 miles of downtown Detroit, the third is just outside of Toledo, Ohio.
Above, left to right: Karen Broski, Coordinator; Marquetta Norwood; Christie Cross; Melissa Scharboneau; and Linda McCarver, R.N.
Below: Dr. Raymond Y. Demers, Principal Investigator
"Having so many clinic locations is a wonderful option for PLCO participants in Michigan and Northern Ohio," explained Raymond Y. Demers, M.D., Ph.D., PLCO Principal Investigator at Henry Ford. "However, it can sometimes be a challenge for the staff, some of whom must travel between the clinics."
"To bridge the three clinics, we have developed a new approach in the delivery of screening exams," explained Karen Broski, PLCO Coordinator at Henry Ford. "We have a team of specially trained nurse examiners who administer all the exams. These highly skilled professionals are on the leading edge of nursing research."
Though the primary focus of the PLCO trial is to determine the utility of cancer screening exams, along the way PLCO is also advancing ways Americans receive their health care. "If this model of nurse examiners is as successful as we think it will be, it could change the nursing field," Ms. Broski said. "Rather than needing to go to your doctor for every aspect of care, you could first go to a nurse examiner. This will reduce the cost of health care, as well as extend its reach. Nurses often have more flexibility than doctors and so can serve residents in rural and other hard to reach areas."
"The staff are all very committed to this study," said Ms. Broski. "Many of our own families have been touched by cancer, so we also have a personal motivation. In fact, several staff members have enrolled their parents in the study!"
The Henry Ford PCLO center encourages participants to talk to their friends about PLCO and invites them to join the study by calling Henry Ford's open recruitment line at 313-874-6725. The recruitment line is available anytime Monday through Friday. Callers are asked to leave a message and someone will return their call.
"We are especially honored to have the opportunity to focus on recruiting participants from ethnic minorities, particularly African Americans," said Dr. Demers. "African Americans are typically under-represented in medical research, yet they are heavily affected by the PLCO cancers. It is crucial that there is a strong presence from all ethnicities in the study so we can develop the best approach for cancer prevention for all Americans."
"Participants are part of a legacy, an historic event. PLCO is the largest cancer detection research effort in the U.S. right now," Ms. Broski said. "We are so glad you are participating and appreciate the great extent of your commitment."
When the University of Minnesota first learned of the PLCO study seven years ago, University officials did not need to discuss whether they should apply to become a screening center. "After all, we already had the very positive experience of conducting the Minnesota Colon Cancer Control Trial," explained PLCO Principal Investigator Jack Mandel, Ph.D., M.P.H., who was also the principal investigator for the Minnesota trial. [See "From Lab to Life" article for story about that trial.] "When we began PLCO, we already had an experienced staff in place. Our senior PLCO staff have 15 to 20 years of experience conducting cancer screening clinical trials."
Of all the 10 PLCO screening centers, Minnesota has enrolled the largest number of participants. Currently, Minnesota has 24,000 participants and they expect to enroll 6,000 more over the next two-and-a-half years.
We have been very fortunate to have strong support from the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute of Abbott Northwestern Hospital," Dr. Mandel said. "The cancer center built a new facility expressly for the PLCO trial. As a result, participants don't have to share resources with patients in the hospital and we are able to enroll a larger number of participants than other PLCO centers.
Jill Cordes, Clinic Coordinator, cited Minnesota's unique history with clinical trials as another reason for its large number of participants. "The citizens of Minnesota are extremely interested in health and have a high regard for the University's academic medical center," said Ms. Cordes. "Minnesotans seem to be uniquely willing and enthusiastic participants in health research."
Deb Engelhard, Project Coordinator, said, "Minnesota has a long tradition of being at the forefront of medical research and health care issues and we are proud to be associated with such a successful national screening trial."
"PLCO is a well-designed and well-conducted trial," Dr. Mandel said. "Whatever the results, PLCO will have a profound influence on shaping health policy in the U.S. and across the world. After the first round of results from the Minnesota FOBT trial were released in 1993, a number of organizations including the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force used the results to design screening recommendations. I am certain that PLCO will have a similar impact."
"I am extremely grateful to all the citizens of Minnesota who are willing to participate in PLCO," said Dr. Mandel. "We try to make participation as easy as possible. I am also grateful to the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute and its director, Dr. Martin Oken, for providing such overwhelming support for our project. Finally, I am very appreciative of the dedicated and highly competent PLCO staff at Minnesota."