U-M cancer researcher awarded CDC funding to study screening interventions for those at high risk for hereditary breast cancer

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-added 11/14/2011

Ann Arbor - Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center recently received a three-year grant from the Centers from Disease Control and Preventiongoing to a new website to identify ways to increase cancer screening among young breast cancer survivors and their relatives who may be at high risk of developing the disease.

Some forms of breast cancer may be hereditary, but family members of breast cancer patients often do not participate in breast cancer screening, which can enhance survival, said Maria Katapodi, Ph.D., R.N.going to a new website, assistant professor at the U-M School of Nursing and Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Faculty Scholargoing to a new website. This study aims to find effective methods of encouraging young breast cancer survivors and their high risk family members to undergo screening.

"Family history is the most effective and cheapest method of risk assessment for all chronic diseases-not just cancer," Katapodi said. "Getting families to talk about their health histories is the first step for clinicians to get the information they need to provide the highest quality care to patients."

Using data from the CDC's National Program of Cancer Registries, Katapodi and her colleagues plan to identify 3,000 women in Michigan who were diagnosed with breast cancer when they were between the ages of 20 and 45. Diagnosis at an early age before menopause indicates a strong likelihood that the cancer is hereditary.

The women will be mailed a survey to assess their knowledge about the disease and their strategies for managing cancer risk as well as their interest in participating in a study to assess the effectiveness of interventions to promote breast cancer screening. Those who agree will provide information allowing researchers to perform a pedigree analysis that will identify family members who are at high risk of developing breast cancer. Volunteers will invite up to two high-risk female relatives to join them in participating in the study.

Each family unit will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group will receive a standardized booklet presenting general information about cancer genetics, the importance of early diagnosis and the Michigan Department of Community Health's guidelines for breast cancer screening. The other group will receive a tailored version of the booklet that presents information personalized for each woman that describes her specific risk assessment based on epidemiologically established models. Each woman's age, family history and personal health history will be incorporated.

After nine months, participants will be surveyed again to determine whether the enhanced intervention increased awareness about cancer genetics among young breast cancer survivors and motivated high-risk relatives to undergo appropriate screening and genetic counseling.

The study is a multidisciplinary collaboration that will bring together several partners from academia and the community. Participating organizations include the MDCH, the Prevention Research Center of Michigan, the Michigan Cancer Consortium and the U-M schools of Nursing, Public Health and Medicine.

"This collaboration clearly links research conducted at the University of Michigan to state officials who have the ability to disseminate these findings through the public health system," said Laurel Northouse, Ph.D., R.N.going to a new website, a study contributor and a U-M professor of nursing.

The grant proposal was submitted in response to a call for Special Interest Projects; it was the only one in the United States to win funding.

Other key contributors to the project include Sonia Duffy, Ph.D., R.N., associate professor of nursing; Sofia Merajver, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk and Evaluation Program; Nancy Janz, Ph.D., associate dean of academic affairs for the School of Public Health; Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Breast Cancer Survivorship Program; and Scott Roberts, Ph.D., director of the Genomics, Health and Society Program for the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine.

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Written by: Jennifer Day. Contact: 734-764-2220.

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