Pink ribbons worn around the world serve as a symbol of unity in the fight against breast cancer and search for a cure. Those well-known ribbons also remind women of some important current recommendations: women 40 and older should have a yearly mammogram and an annual breast exam by a doctor or nurse practitioner, along with a monthly self-breast exam.
The Community Cancer Research Foundation through the hospitals of Community Healthcare System is now enrolling women in a new trial offered by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), called the Tomosynthesis Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (TMIST). The study aims to compare two types of digital mammography, 2D and 3D, for breast cancer screening. It also looks at whether certain women should have their screening mammograms annually or every two years.
“There has been much debate on this,” said Roxy Propeck, manager, Cancer Resources and Clinical Trials, Community Healthcare System. “How often you screen, who benefits and who doesn’t, but our main goal is to help women with advanced breast cancer detect their cancer early and increase their chances of survival. We also are looking for whether women in a certain risk category would benefit from a mammogram every year or every two years, it’s more about prevention of advanced breast cancer. That’s really exciting.”
TMIST researchers are enrolling healthy women, ages 45 to 74, who are already planning to get routine mammograms in the study. By taking part in TMIST, the more than 164,000 planned participants will provide critical information that will help researchers learn how to most effectively screen women for breast cancer and in the future, make more informed decisions about screening. To date, across the nation more than 22,000 women have been enrolled in the trial.
“Women know they already have to have their mammogram so the next step, for those who are interested in participating in the trial, is to contact our office,” Propeck said.
Mammography trial screenings are currently taking place at St. Mary Medical Center’s Women’s Diagnostic Center in Hobart. The TMIST study is being coordinated through the Community Cancer Research Foundation by dedicated fellowship-trained breast radiologist Mary Nicholson, MD.
The Community Cancer Research Foundation works to bring the latest advances in detection, diagnosis, treatment, education and prevention of cancer to area patients. Through the Foundation’s efforts, residents have access to clinical research trials from around the world close to home in their own neighborhood.
The Foundation sponsors research trials at three hospitals of the Community Healthcare System: Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart. Part of the healthcare system, the Foundation helps support the area's largest cancer treatment and research programs offering access through the Clinical Trials Support Unit (CTSU) and pharmaceutical studies. More than 30 trials are available; offering to local patients treatments for breast, lung, gynecologic and other common and rare cancers.
Propeck said that the Foundation offers other breast cancer clinical trials that provide women with advanced breast cancer access to alternative treatments they would not otherwise have an opportunity to enroll in. One of these is offered to certain women with triple negative breast cancer. Another takes a look at prevention centering on whether aspirin may be beneficial in reducing a recurrence of breast cancer. Another trial aims to discover whether a common diabetes drug could help prevent abnormal cells from developing into breast cancer.
“These are complex trials, but we break it down and make it easy for patients to digest and participate,” Propeck said. “We are here to educate and guide them through whatever they need, and our participating physicians are excellent.”
The Community Cancer Research Foundation has been making a difference for cancer patients for more than 20 years. Through trials sponsored by the Foundation, local patients have been among the first to benefit from treatments that have helped to improve survival and are less invasive. One of the Foundation’s milestones includes participation in the STAR trial in 2005. The Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR) enrolled 67 area women in the largest national breast cancer prevention trial at the time which resulted in a new treatment option for women at increased risk.
For a listing of active clinical trials at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, visit www.myccrf.com/trials.asp or call the Community Cancer Research Foundation, 219-836-6875.