ARLINGTON — Tarrant County College student Amy Auanger was having lunch Tuesday when someone handed her a flier that struck close to home.“It was near and dear to my heart,” Auanger said. “My mom died of lung cancer almost a year ago.”So when she left the Southeast Campus cafeteria, Auanger stepped into an adjacent room and enrolled in the Cancer Prevention Study-3. A nurse measured her waist and took a blood sample, and Auanger became one of hundreds of thousands of folks recruited by the American Cancer Society to be tracked for 20 to 30 years. The first such study, conducted in 1954-64, established a direct link between smoking and lung cancer. The second, in 1982-1996, linked secondhand smoke and obesity to cancer.Naturally, the greatest value of CPS-3 will be for the study subjects’ children and grandchildren, said Kathleen Stephens, coordinator of student affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington, who also became a study subject Tuesday. She lost a grandmother and two uncles to cancer and hopes her 13-year-old son, Connor, will know neither the terror of being diagnosed with the disease nor the pain of watching a loved one go through it.“If you don’t have a family member affected by cancer, you probably know someone who has been,” Stephens said.For Stephens, that someone is a Martin High School student she knows in Arlington.“Taylor Helland was diagnosed with colon cancer when she was 14,” Stephens said. “Now, she’s 17, in remission and is this year’s homecoming queen.”With multiple reasons for becoming part of the study, Stephens couldn’t resist. It took only minutes and “just one little stick for blood, then answering a survey in the mail every two to three years,” she said.Conducted at other TCC campuses this week and next, the enrollment will give scientists a means to determine how genetics, lifestyle and environment work together to cause or prevent cancer, cancer society spokeswoman Joy Donovan Brandon said. Enrollment will continue through year’s end, and the study gets underway in earnest in 2014.A society staff member leading the enrollment effort at Southeast Campus, Alex Thieroff, said everyone who signed up online or by phone had showed up.“We expect about 100 today,” Thieroff said.Such a response will help local recruiters exceed their goal of 400 participants, Donovan Brandon said.“But we’re about 20,000 short of the 300,000 national goal,” Donovan Brandon said. “This is what the research funding goes for.”Indeed, 30 to 35 percent of the funds that the cancer society raises goes to research, which makes it the nation’s largest source for cancer research funding, spokesman Larry Mundt said.Forty-seven scientists who received grants from the society ultimately earned Nobel prizes, Mundt said, indicating the caliber of people who will be mining the data to find answers from CPS-3.“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part of something that will save lives from cancer,” Donovan Brandon said.
Terry Evans, 817-390-7620 Twitter: @fwstevans