2008.11.21 – Cancer patients to participate in research program


Cancer patients to participate in research program

Published: Friday, November 21, 2008 4:09 AM EST

Residents of Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties diagnosed with the blood cancer polycythemia vera will soon participate in an international research program.

The Geisinger Hazleton Cancer Center is completing an application so the patients will be included in the work of the Myeloproliferative Disorder Research Consortium, Dr. Paul Roda, a Hazleton cancer specialist, said.

While polycythemia vera is rare — striking two in 100,000 people, according to The Merck Manual — a federal study found 33 people living between McAdoo and Tamaqua have the disease.

Four of those cases occurred along Ben Titus Road, which is near the McAdoo Associates site that underwent a cleanup through the federal Superfund program in the 1980s due to environmental contamination.

The incidences were statistically significant, according to a two-year study the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry completed in August.

The study also found smaller clusters of polycythemia vera near Jim Thorpe and south of Frackville.

Through the consortium, patients can contribute tissue samples that will help researchers study polycythemia vera, for which the cause is unknown.

Patients with polycythemia vera produce too many red blood cells, can show symptoms such as headache, fatigue and dizziness, and become susceptible to blood clots, strokes and heart attacks.

They are treated by regularly having their blood drained.

Patients who don’t respond to that treatment will be eligible to participate in clinical trials of other treatments, Roda said.

“This is not going to happen overnight,” Roda said.

kjackson@standardspeaker.com, 570-455-3636