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Notes from the National Cancer Institute

PLCO: State of the Union Report

Greetings and Happy New Year from NCI!

This ninth year of the PLCO trial will mark a significant turning point. By the end of September, we will finish enrolling participants. Recruiting people to join PLCO has been an exciting and fulfilling job. We started in September 1992 with an ambitious goal of enrolling 148,000 people. Since then, NCI and all screening centers have been overwhelmed with your positive response to our call to action. Thanks to you, not only have we already reached our goal, we have exceeded it!

Like last year's presidential election when every single vote mattered, every single participant in PLCO matters too. Each person who joins adds "statistical power" to the trial. The larger the statistical power, the more convincing and powerful our results -- whatever they may be.

Speaking of results, you may wonder when you will hear any. Probably the hardest task for participants and staff is keeping our patience while we wait for results. Saundra Buys, M.D., principal investigator in Utah, says, "I am so tempted to tell my patients to get screening tests. But that would be unfair to them. We just don't know yet if these screening tests really help. We must wait to see what the results say."

So what exactly are we waiting for? Look at the timeline below and you will see that we are only finishing the second of five stages of the trial. After we finish enrolling people this year, we will continue screening, collecting yearly questionnaires, and following-up on participants' health. During the follow-up stage, we will look closely at your questionnaires and other data over time to see what impact the screening tests have had. Only time -- and your on-going participation -- can tell us this.

Finally, at the end of the follow-up stage, we can finish our massive calculations to determine whether or not screening can lessen the number of people who die from PLCO cancers. We expect these results by 2015. However, an outside panel of experts meets every year to review the information collected to date. They will determine when we have enough information to finish the study, maybe even sooner than 2015. NCI is dedicated to keeping participants informed about the progress of the trial, including any results, as they become available.

We are thankful this new year for your continued patience, persistence, and commitment to the trial.

Timeline for clinical trial