Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU School of Medicine

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Cancer In Illinois

Dr. Steward

Dr. David Steward

People from other states, who don’t know what Illinois is really like, often think that what happens in Chicago is pretty much what happens in the rest of the state. But, for those of us who live here, we know that just isn’t the case….we don’t worry about the traffic on the Dan Ryan, we aren’t too interested in what Rahm Emanuel says, and many of us don’t root for the Cubs. But, we do care about how the crops are doing, and about the construction on I-57, and how to improve the economy in rural agricultural and mining areas.

We have also thought that health issues, including those related to cancer, affect the urban and rural areas of Illinois differently, although up until now, it has been hard to prove. But thanks to a major collaborative effort between Simmons Cancer Institute and the Illinois State Cancer Registry, we can now begin to better understand how the cancer experience of rural Illinoisans is different than that in the urban areas of Illinois and even different depending on whether you are from northern, central, or southern Illinois. That collaboration has resulted in a new study, entitled “Cancer In Rural Illinois, 1990-2010”, which is available on the Medical School’s Center for Clinical Research webpage (http://www.siumed.edu/ccr/).

In this study, we looked at three rural regions of the state (northern, central, and southern), as well as Cook County, collar counties, and the smaller urban areas, to identify differences in the occurrence and death rates of cancers in those areas. And, sure enough, we found differences, which we think will help us target the efforts of the Simmons Cancer Institute toward studying and treating the cancers that cause the most sickness and death in our service area.

Here are some key facts from the report:

  • Fewer cancers of all kinds are diagnosed at an early, and potentially curable, stage in rural Illinois compared to urban and suburban areas.
  • Rural regions of southern and central Illinois have a higher rate of occurrence of lung and colon cancer and melanoma than in urban and suburban areas. And, in central Illinois, kidney cancer and esophageal cancers also occur more often than in the other parts of the state.
  • Death rates from all cancers declined in all three rural regions of Illinois during 1990 to 2010, but at a rate significantly slower than the decline in cancer death rates in urban and suburban areas of the state.
  • The lung cancer death rate in southern Illinois is 22% higher than that of the state as a whole, and in contrast to all other areas, southern Illinois has not seen any decline in lung cancer death rates over the past two decades.

With this information now available, the SCI’s cancer researchers and cancer care teams can sharpen their focus on relieving the burdens of cancer that people in our area experience. And, with the ongoing collaborative work with the State Cancer Registry, this report just scratches the surface of what we can learn about how cancer affects us, here in central and southern Illinois, and how we can reduce that burden. We are not like Chicago, and now we know a lot more about the differences.

Collaboration to Study Disparities in Lung Cancer Treatments in Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, Southern Illinois Healthcare (SIH) Cancer Institute in Carbondale and the Illinois State Cancer Registry will collaborate on a two-year study that will explore disparities in the treatment of lung cancer in southern Illinois. SIH Cancer Institute is an affiliate of Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU. Studies have shown that lung cancer mortality rates and cases of lung cancer are higher in southern Illinois than other Illinois counties. Dr. David Steward, chair of the internal medicine department at SIU, is the principal investigator for the $249,998 project that is funded by the American Cancer Society, Illinois Division. The two-year project, “Collaboration to Reduce Lung Cancer Disparities in Southern Illinois Delta,” will include the 16 most southern counties in Illinois: Alexander, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Union, White and Williamson. “On behalf of the HealthySI (Southern Illinois) Delta Network, we are elated with the news of the award of this important funding. The research will be an integral part of addressing lung cancer disparities that exist in our region. In Franklin County alone, lung cancer mortality rates and cases of lung cancer that are diagnosed at a later stage have long been higher than even surrounding counties. We are looking at groundbreaking work here that will mean earlier diagnosis and longer life,” said Robin Koehl, administrator of Franklin/Williamson Bi-County Health. An additional benefit to the collaborative lung cancer study is the ability to identify other cancers that may be occurring more often or are causing a disproportionate number of bad outcomes in the area, and then design specific actions to address these problems. “A subsequent part of the study focuses on working with existing community coalitions to identify barriers that might prevent people in the region from getting proper attention for medical issues that might be related to cancer,” Steward said. SIU School of Medicine will also work with SIH to support a lung nodule evaluation program to ensure that suspicious lesions found on CT scans (computerized tomography that provides a 3-D view of bones and soft tissue) get appropriate diagnostic evaluation and treatment. “We hope the result is that, by finding lung cancers at an early stage, these patients can receive treatment that may cure them, rather than letting some early cancers spread and become less treatable,” Steward added. The SIH Cancer Institute Lung Cancer Team has long noted how often patients with the disease do not follow through with diagnostic efforts prior to their diagnosis being made, according to Dr. Mary Rosenow, medical director. “This grant will make it possible for the group to achieve its goal of establishing the Pulmonary Nodule Clinic, where patients can be seen by specialists at the very first sign of a problem, and where a navigator and office staff will track every patient from the start to the finish of the evaluation. We are grateful for the award of this grant,” Rosenow added.

SIU Med School Researcher Studying Dietary Interventions in Ovarian Cancer

Dale Hales

Dale B. Hales, Ph.D.

A scientist at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Carbondale has been awarded a five-year federal grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to study dietary interventions to suppress ovarian cancer. The total budget for the grant is $1,804,202.

Dale B. Hales, Ph.D., professor of physiology and gynecology/obstetrics, chair of the physiology department and a member of Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU, is the principal investigator for the project.

"Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths from gynecological malignancies due to the late stage at which it is usually detected. This research will test the effectiveness of a flaxseed-enriched diet in the suppression of ovarian cancer, using the laying hen as a model of ovarian carcinoma," said Hales.

Flaxseed is the richest vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids. The research also will determine which component of flaxseed provides the therapeutic effect. The long-term goal of the research, which uses a dietary intervention by natural products, is to reduce the prevalence and severity of ovarian cancer.

Hales's research has been funded for more than 25 years by the NIH, Department of Defense, American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Cancer Society. His research has focused on the role of inflammation and oxidative stress in the etiology of hormonal carcinogenesis and the prevention and treatment of ovarian cancer with functional food-based diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Hales joined the SIU faculty in 2009. He completed his doctoral degree in biochemistry, biophysics and genetics at the University of Colorado (UC) Health Sciences Center in Denver (1983). Hales earned his bachelor's at the UC in Boulder (1977).

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