Clinical trials in Alaska focus on colon cancer

Joining a clinical study can be helpful as well as interesting

Editor's note: This story has been updated, with corrections.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and there are ways you can help find a cure.

We are at the age when we know of someone who is suffering or has died from colon cancer, and wished there was a better means of detection. Now Alaska seniors can take part in research.

What are clinical trials?

Let's look at what clinical research is and how you can participate. For the questions you should ask before signing up please see the accompanying sidebar on page 11.

Here's what happens in a trial:

1. Study staff explain the trial in detail and gather information about you.

2. Once you agree to participate, you sign an informed consent form.

3. You are screened to make sure you qualify for the trial.

4. If accepted into the trial, you schedule a first visit (called the "baseline" visit) of cognitive and/or physical tests during this visit.

5. You are randomly assigned to a treatment or control group.

6. You and your family members follow the trial procedures and report any issues or concerns to researchers.

7. You may visit the research site at regularly scheduled times for new cognitive, physical or other evaluations and discussions with staff. At these visits, the research team collects information about effects and your safety and wellbeing.

8. You continue to see your regular physician for usual health care throughout the study.

Trials open to Alaskans

In fact, there are 183 studies open to Alaskans at Just enter USA for country and Alaska for the state and the type of study you're interested in.

For instance, if a family member or friend has breast cancer, you can sign up for that research.

Keep in mind that while the contacts may be out of state, there is a corresponding research facility in Alaska close to Anchorage or your village.

For Alaska Natives

According to researchers, only 59 percent of Alaska Native people have been adequately screened for colorectal cancer despite having the highest reported incidence of this type of cancer in the world.

A new at-home multi-target stool DNA screening test with high sensitivity for pre-cancerous polyps and colorectal cancer is now available. This screening that involves using a Cologuard smear test has not been tested for feasibility or acceptability within the Alaska tribal health care delivery system, and it is unknown whether use of this new test will increase Alaska Native colorectal cancer screening rates.

The long-term study goal is to improve screening and reduce mortality from colorectal cancer. The objective is to test the effectiveness of MT-sDNA, a simple test that detects evidence of advanced colorectal cancer, for increasing colorectal cancer screening in Alaska Native communities using a community-based participatory research approach. The study will be conducted in collaboration with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and is not open to other parts of the state.

It is hoped there will be over a thousand participants.

Contact Dr. Diana Redwood at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium at 907-729-3959, or for more information.

Just take a vitamin

There is a Randomized Double-Blind Phase III Trial of Vitamin D3 Supplementation in patients with previously untreated metastatic colorectal cancer where the researchers want to compare the progression-free survival of patients receiving high-dose vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) in combination with standard chemotherapy.

Contact Dr. Kimmie Ng at 617-632-4150 or for more information.

Pain reduction

This phase of the trial studies the best dose of duloxetine, an anti-depressant medication, and how well it works in preventing pain, tingling, and numbness of peripheral neuropathy caused by treatment with oxaliplatin, a type of chemotherapy drug, in patients with stage II-III colorectal cancer. Duloxetine increases the amount of certain chemicals in the brain that help relieve depression and pain. Giving duloxetine in patients undergoing treatment with oxaliplatin for colorectal cancer may help prevent peripheral neuropathy.

Contact Dr. Ellen M. Lavoie Smith at 734-936-1267, or for more information.

Participate in trials from the comfort of home

You can also subscribe to that has 207 volunteers in Alaska. ResearchMatch is a free and secure online tool created by academic institutions across the country that wants you to help with studies to improve health in the future.

Sometimes you can get paid for taking part in research. I was recently paid a $10 Amazon gift card for answering questions about depression and thoughts of suicide, all online. Nice.

Ask these questions before participating in a trial

• What is the purpose of the study? What is this study trying to find out?

• What will I have to do as a participant? What treatment or tests will I have? Will they hurt?

• What are the chances I will get the experimental treatment?

• What are the possible risks, side effects and benefits of the study treatment compared to my current treatment?

• How will I know if the treatment is working?

• How will you protect my health while I am in the study?

• What happens if my health problem gets worse during the study?

• How will the study affect my everyday life?

• How long will the clinical trial last?

• Where will the study take place? Will you provide a way for me to get to the study site if I need it?

• Will I have to stay in the hospital?

• Will being in the study cost me anything? If so, will I be reimbursed? Will my insurance cover my costs?

• Can I take my regular medicines while in the trial?

• Who will be in charge of my care while I am in the study? Will I be able to see my own doctor?

• Will you follow up on my health after the end of the study?

• Will you tell me the results of the study?

• Whom do I call if I have more questions?

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