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Pathways to Discovery: Fall 2011

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New Core Helps Cancer Researchers Study Patient Populations

We have the capability to systematically identify and seek consent from eligible patients in the clinics so that an investigator doesn’t have to get the staff and resources to do it.
Nedra Joseph, PhD

A newly developed facility at The University of Chicago is helping researchers more efficiently conduct studies to observe cancer patterns within different patient populations. The knowledge gained from these studies paves the way for improved cancer care, prevention, and survivorship.

The Epidemiology and Research Recruitment Core (ERRC) provides expertise in study design, patient recruitment, and data collection for a range of hospital and community-based cancer population studies.

“It’s kind of a ‘one-stop shop,’” said Scientific Director Brian Chiu, PhD. “We coordinate systematic and rigorous specimen collection as well as implement processes for large-scale collection of interview data to ascertain individual variables and exposure history.

The integration of these multiple dimensions allows investigators to conduct high-quality multidisciplinary population and clinical research studies.”

Research Recruitment Services
The ERRC helps researchers save time and money by identifying eligible patients to participate in epidemiologic, genetic, and behavioral cancer studies offered at UChicago.

“We have the capability to systematically identify and seek consent from eligible patients in the clinics so that an investigator doesn’t have to get the staff and resources to do it,” said Technical Director Nedra Joseph, PhD. “We already have those resources in place.”

Epidemiology Services
The ERRC collaborates with the Translational Research Initiative in the Department of Medicine for blood sample collection and the Human Tissue Resource Center for biological specimen processing and storage, but what Dr. Chiu said “fills in the gaps” are the epidemiologic data that the ERRC collects from patients through standardized questionnaires. Often, this entails the important task of tracking down patients to ensure that questionnaires are completed and returned.

“Non-response and systematic missing data can bias a study, so we train our staff to pay attention to those details in order to provide high-quality data,” said Dr. Chiu.

The questionnaire asks patients for basic demographics—such as background information, lifestyle and health behaviors, and personal and family medical history—to establish baseline data, but if an investigator were interested in focusing on one specific cancer, the ERRC can add pertinent questions and produce a customized questionnaire.

Collected data are entered into a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant database to not only protect patient privacy, but also to allow investigators to link databases for their research.

In the near future, the ERRC plans to coordinate with the UCCCC Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Disparities to identify strategies for recruiting participants for prevention studies and to develop strategies for ongoing communication and education about cancer research.

epidemiology research recruitment core, Nedra Joseph

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