The campaign, "SELECT Sunday," conducted in collaboration with the National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer II, seeks to double African-American enrollment in SELECT, an international, National Cancer Institute-funded study to determine whether vitamin E and the trace element selenium can protect against prostate cancer, the most common form of malignancy in men after non-melanoma skin cancer. "Since study recruitment began in the summer of 2001, we have enrolled 27,067 men and have met more than half of our recruitment goal, but we still lack an adequate representation of African-American men," said Russell Campbell, the study's national minority-recruitment and adherence coordinator. "While more than 3,000 African-American men already are participating in the study, our goal is to enroll more than 6,000."
In addition to boosting study enrollment, SELECT Sunday aims to raise awareness of the seriousness of prostate cancer among African-American men, who have the highest incidence rates in the world and a death rate that's more than double that of white men, according to the American Cancer Society.
"Prostate cancer is attacking our black men at an alarming rate and we need to find a way to prevent this horrible disease," said the campaign's celebrity supporter Les Brown, a motivational speaker, author and television personality who also is a five-year survivor of prostate cancer.
"Through my involvement with SELECT Sunday, I encourage congregations nationwide to host a SELECT Sunday service and to advise African Americans about the importance of prostate-cancer awareness and participating in SELECT. We need to help find a way to stop prostate cancer before it starts."
Starting this weekend, participating churches are welcome to host SELECT Sundays as often as they wish until study recruitment ends. During SELECT Sundays, pastors or other church officials will take about five minutes from their regularly scheduled Sunday services to talk about the importance of prostate-cancer awareness. Key messages will include the fact that African-American men are at greater risk and that the disease can be successfully treated when discovered early.
Congregation members will receive a flier about SELECT and a list of local study sites. They also will receive handouts from the National Cancer Institute about prostate-cancer risk factors, screening and early detection.
Men may be able to participate in SELECT if they are 55 or older (50 or older for black men); have had neither prostate cancer nor any other type of cancer in the past five years (except non-melanoma skin cancer); and are generally in good health.
SELECT, a 12-year, $180 million study, ultimately will enroll 32,400 men in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico through a network of 400 research sites, many of which belong to a consortium of cancer-care centers and physicians known as the Southwest Oncology Group, or SWOG.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Public Health Sciences Division, along with Cancer Research and Biostatistics, or CRAB, another Seattle nonprofit organization, houses the SWOG Statistical Center, which designed the statistical structure of the study and will lead data management and analysis for this massive international effort.
George Counts, M.D., a Fred Hutchinson physician and infectious-diseases researcher with an extensive track record in breaking down barriers in health-care disparity, sees the church partnership as positive step toward bridging the enrollment gap.
"The medical community needs to do a better job of educating minority and underserved communities through their educational systems, churches, news media and community leaders. SELECT Sunday is a great opportunity for doing just that," said Counts, a member of Fred Hutchinson's Clinical Research Division who serves as a senior adviser on special populations for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, a global effort to develop and test a successful HIV vaccine.
"Participating in medical research is beneficial to people of all racial backgrounds and ethnicities. If African Americans don't participate in such research we have no way of knowing whether certain medications or prevention strategies will help them - whether the results can be generalized to the population at large," Counts said.
Churches that would like more information about hosting a SELECT Sunday or men who would like more information about enrolling in the study can contact the Cancer Information Service of the National Cancer Institute at 1-800-4-CANCER or go to www.swog.org and click on "SELECT" and "How to Participate."
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home of two Nobel laureates, is an independent, nonprofit research institution dedicated to the development and advancement of biomedical research to eliminate cancer and other potentially fatal diseases. Fred Hutchinson receives more funding from the National Institutes of Health than any other independent U.S. research center. Recognized internationally for its pioneering work in bone-marrow transplantation, the center's four scientific divisions collaborate to form a unique environment for conducting basic and applied science. Fred Hutchinson, in collaboration with its clinical and research partners, the University of Washington and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Pacific Northwest and is one of 39 nationwide. For more information, visit the center's Web site at www.fhcrc.org.
Advancing Knowledge, Saving Lives
Cancer Research and Biostatistics, or CRAB, is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to help conquer cancer and other diseases through the application of biostatistical principles and data-management methods. To learn more about CRAB, visit its Web site at www.crab.org.