Research aims to study 50,000 Albertans to help find what causes the disease

Storing your health history today may help prevent cancer tomorrow.

The Tomorrow Project, a research initiative of Alberta Health Services, is looking for 50,000 Albertans, ages 35 to 69, who have never had cancer.

A 2008 report of cancer statistics in Alberta indicated that about one in two males and one third of females in Alberta will develop cancer in their lifetime.

Of this number, only one in four will die, said Ashlee Vennettilli, study co-ordinator of the Tomorrow Project.

“The benefit of the study is to look at what could possibly cause cancer and how to prevent it. However, this study is not a diagnosis for cancer,” she said.

“The data from participants will be gathered, stored and analyzed by different cancer researchers,” said Fatima Khawaja of Alberta Health Services. She added “that previous data from the tomorrow project data has been used for breast cancer research.

“We have over 20,000 people in our study, and have over 30,000 to go.”

The project began in 2008 and hopes to obtain the goal of 50,000 participants by April 2013. The sample size is so large that researchers want to get a good cross-size of the province, Khawaja said.Maria Varela, reasearch assistant, measures Barb Kissinger’s height and weight as part of information required for the Tomorrow Project. The Tomorrow Project aims to study 50,000 Albertans to find a cause for cancer.
Photo by: Corinne Sato

In order to reach everyone, the Tomorrow Project has mobile clinics that visit communities within Calgary and Edmonton, as well as other towns and cities across Alberta. Throughout the month of April, mobile clinics will visit Brooks, St. Albert, Edmonton and Camrose.

“There are also two permanent research centres in Calgary and Edmonton,” said Khawaja. “The Calgary centre is located at the old Holy Cross Hospital.”

The Tomorrow Project requires participants to give about two hours of their time to:

1. Complete questionnaire and consent form

2. Make an appointment at a study centre

3. Provide urine, blood and saliva samples

4. Provide vital measurements (including height, weight and blood pressure)

A mail-in option — a survey and saliva kit — is available to people who want to participate in the research study, but cannot visit a clinic.

Once the project has enough samples, researchers hope to follow the participants for 20 to 50 years, with follow up questionnaires every three to five years, Khawaja said. However, the project is currently in the sampling phase.

Bev Kissinger, 57, attended a mobile clinic at the Banff Trail Community Hall.

“I believe it’s really important for people to help with research studies,” she said.

Her motivation for participating in the study was to honour her 20 year-old son. At the age of 19, he was diagnosed with leukemia. For over a year since his diagnosis, he has participated in four different research studies and is now expecting a full recovery.

“Because of people who participated in studies, he is alive today,” she said.

For more information on the Tomorrow Project in Alberta, visit http://in4tomorrow.ca/

csato@cjournal.ca