FROM IDEAS TO IMPACT
The impact of Pelotonia dollars is realized most dramatically in discoveries made by teams of researchers funded through this event. Here are two examples of impact, discovery and promise.
By BOB HECKER
Statewide Screening Initiative Has Life-Saving Potential
Pelotonia funds have helped the OSUCCC – James launch a statewide initiative to screen newly diagnosed colorectal cancer (CRC) patients and their biological relatives for Lynch syndrome (LS), a major cause of inherited colorectal, ovarian and uterine cancer. The effort will reveal others who may be at risk of developing these cancers so they can take precautionary measures.
The Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative (OCCPI) is led by Heather Hampel, MS, CGC, associate director of the Division of Human Genetics. Hampel says that about 3 percent of CRC cases result from Lynch syndrome, which is characterized by inherited mutations in one of four genes for DNA-repair proteins. Each CRC patient with LS has, on average, three relatives with the syndrome, heightening their risk for CRC.
Based in large part on research conducted at the OSUCCC – James from 1999-2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all newly diagnosed CRC patients be screened for LS. The OSUCCC – James has done this since 2006 to help reduce morbidity and mortality in CRC patients and their at-risk relatives, who can also be screened and advised of increased surveillance methods if they too are found to have LS.
The OCCPI includes 42 hospitals from throughout Ohio that will implement the LS screening program at their own institutions. Partner hospitals will advise patients and their physicians of the results, offer genetic counseling and make high-risk cancer surveillance recommendations to patients and family members found to have LS.
“If you find people with LS before they get cancer, you have the potential to really save lives,” Hampel says. LS patients can take precautionary measures by having colonoscopies earlier and more frequently, starting at age 20 to 25 and performed every one to two years so precancerous polyps can be detected and removed, or so that cancer can be detected in an early stage when it is more treatable.
And to prevent ovarian and uterine cancers, she adds, women with LS may choose to have an oophorectomy and hysterectomy once they are finished having children.
Faith-Based Fight to Reduce Obesity Spans Five Appalachian States
A transdisciplinary health-disparities team led by Ohio State and supported in part by Pelotonia dollars is partnering with churches in a five-state region to refine and test a previously piloted faith-based intervention program to promote health and reduce cancer risk by addressing obesity.
Electra Paskett, PhD, MSPH, associate director for population sciences at the OSUCCC – James, where she also leads the Cancer Control Program, is principal investigator for the project, which is the research component of the larger Appalachian Community Cancer Project (ACCN) funded at $6.13 million over five years by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) – including $2.7 million for the research component.
The intervention uses community-based participatory research strategies aimed at two behavioral causes of obesity: sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet. The target region is mainly rural and contains medically underserved populations characterized by low income, education deficits, poor health, increased rates of obesity and high cancer incidence.
“An obesogenic environment promotes obesity by encouraging physical inactivity and limiting healthy food choices,” Paskett says. “This project is testing a faith-based intervention in 10-15 churches compared with a program in 10-15 additional churches where participants will receive only information and cancer-screening tests.”
Participants in the intervention churches receive help in increasing physical activity and consuming healthier foods, including more fruits and vegetables daily.
Paskett says part of the intervention also involves a two-year e-health computer program that tracks the number of steps taken per day by participants and gives them tailored messages about increasing physical activity and changing their diets. The e-health program is supported by a $100,000 Pelotonia Idea Grant – money allocated to teams of scientists who need funds to start working on innovative ideas that may initially have difficulty getting funds elsewhere. Paskett says the Idea Grant “helped us secure NCI funding to do the whole research study in the 20-30 churches throughout the ACCN region.” The full-scale study is under way.
“We believe this project is having an immediate impact among members of the churches that are involved with the intervention,” Paskett says. “These successful strategies could be used to improve the health of residents throughout Appalachia in the future.”