Pacific Health Research Institute Awarded $2.8 Million in Research Funding

Funds will extend the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST).

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This research funding allows PHRI to continue addressing a major medical problem that afflicts hundreds of thousands of people

Honolulu, HI (Vocus) September 1, 2009

The Honolulu-based Pacific Health Research Institute (PHRI) has received $2.8 million in research funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to continue the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), a major lung cancer screening study in Hawaii, for two more years.

Since 2002, PHRI has participated in the NLST, a research study that has been comparing the effectiveness of two screening methods - spiral computerized tomography (CT) and chest X-ray - in detecting lung cancer in current and former smokers before they show symptoms of the disease. PHRI is one of 33 NLST screening centers in the United States. Approximately 50,000 people are participating in the nationwide study.

"The NLST and its companion study - the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial - are poised to answer, within the next several years, a question of vital importance to public health: Can screening for lung cancer with spiral CT or chest X-ray lower the mortality from lung cancer? The continued contribution of the participants in these studies makes this possible," said Christine D. Berg, M.D., Chief of NCI's Early Detection Research Group and Project Officer for the NLST and PLCO.

Drs. Lance Yokochi and Peter Balkin of PHRI will continue to lead the NLST effort in Hawaii, where 2,400 current and former smokers between the ages of 55 and 74 received free lung cancer screenings and continue to receive annual follow-up to monitor their general health. Participants also receive referrals to smoking cessation programs if they are interested in quitting smoking.

"While Hawaii has one of the lowest lung cancer death rates in the nation, our state's diverse ethnic population makes us an important location for this study's implementation," said Dr. Bruce Stevenson, Chief Executive Officer of PHRI. According to statistics from the American Lung Association, more than 1,100 Hawaii residents die from lung cancer each year.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 90 million current and former smokers in the United States are at high risk for lung cancer. Death rates for this disease, unlike many other cancers, have not declined. When detected, lung cancer has usually spread outside the lung in 15 to 30 percent of cases. Spiral CT can pick up tumors well under 1 cm in size, while chest X-rays detect tumors about 1 to 2 cm in size. Conventional wisdom suggests that the smaller the tumor when found, the more likely the chance of cure. The NLST directly compares the two methods of detection and their capacity for reducing deaths from lung cancer.

"This research funding allows PHRI to continue addressing a major medical problem that afflicts hundreds of thousands of people," added Stevenson. "The NLST and other research that we do here have a direct impact on health and healthcare throughout the Pacific region and abroad. The PHRI team is privileged to be a part of this vital cancer research study that may save lives."

PHRI is one of 10 study sites in the NCI PLCO Cancer Screening Trial, the largest cancer screening trial ever conducted in the United States. The study is in its 17th year and now follows 10,800 participants in Hawaii and 155,000 participants nationwide.

PHRI has an extensive history as a pioneer of cancer research in Hawaii. The Institute introduced mammography screenings in Hawaii in the 1970s through the Breast Cancer Detection Demonstration Project. Under the guidance of Dr. Fred Gilbert, PHRI founder, 10,000 women in Hawaii were screened for breast cancer as a part of the project.

About the Pacific Health Research Institute

The Pacific Health Research Institute (http://www.phrihawaii.org) is an independent, non-profit biomedical research organization dedicated to improving health in Hawaii and around the world. Driven by the values of excellence and innovation, PHRI's outstanding scientists and their research programs focus on a range of health challenges, including obesity, diabetes, aging, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and health care delivery. Hawaii's diverse ethnic population, island setting, and unique collaborative environment provide rich resources for PHRI to address health issues on a local, national, and international scale. PHRI's epidemiological, clinical, and health services research directly impacts the health and well-being of people worldwide.

Contact:

Jason Meyer                        
Becker Communications, Inc.
(808) 533-4165

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