By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Mayor Lloyd Bertschi and Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Ken Kowalski were among the first people to take part in the Tomorrow Project Monday afternoon. The cancer research project is in town this week at Vanier School, looking to collect research data from a wide variety of Albertans between the ages of 35 and 69. The Alberta Health Services (AHS) initiative seeks to enrol 50,000 Albertans who have never had cancer by 2012, people who answer a non-intrusive questionnaire and who undergo some basic tests in the hopes of one day providing the data necessary to prevent if not defeat cancer.
“The Tomorrow Project is a long-term study of the associations between lifestyle and cancer, said Lindsay Wozney, Tomorrow Project’s Edmonton Study Centre coordinator. “We’re looking to learn more about the causes of cancer so we can contribute to preventing it in the future.”
Wozney said in order to meet the project’s goal of collecting data from as diverse a group of Albertans as possible; they are running a number of mobile study centres outside Edmonton and Calgary. After filling out a questionnaire on lifestyle, participants provide a blood and urine sample or, alternatively, a saliva sample. Additionally, height and weight is measured, and blood pressure and strength is tested.
It is the project’s intention to maintain periodic contact with participants until the age 85. “We send out newsletters,” Wozney said, adding a new questionnaire would be sent every four to five years to keep data current for the project. “What we want to do is build a rich database of participant information over various areas of study – people’s health, lifestyle, diet, physical activity, occupation, that kind of thing – so that we can get a good picture of their life and lifestyle. In the future, as more of our participants become diagnosed with cancer, we’ll be able to tell how people are similar or different in those various areas.”
Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Ken Kowalski was one of the first to provide data for the project in Morinville Aug. 15. Kowalski said although Albertans are living longer, one of the elements of an aging population is the presence of disease as people age. “The older we get, the more disease seems to come forward, at least a knowledge of it,” Kowalski said, adding statistics show one in two Albertans will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime – one in four will die from it. “With 3,750,000 [Albertans] at the base, those are pretty scary numbers. So we have to try and find all of the answers as to why cancer develops so that we can find a cure for it.”
Morinville Mayor Lloyd Bertschi also felt the AHS initiative is an important one. “It’s good to come out and show support for these kinds of things,” the mayor said. “I’ve been very blessed in my family. Anywhere from my grandparents through any relatives – very minor instances of cancer. Our family’s been very fortunate and blessed not to have been in contact with it. I guess if we can have some sampling aside and it does occur, then maybe we can check out to see why that happened to me or somebody else.”
The mayor encourages Morinville residents to take part in the study, something that can be done without coming to the study centre. “Cancer is one of the major costs associated with the health care system,” he said. “Having these kinds of things is better for the future of your families. It’s a good thing to participate in if you can.”
The Tomorrow Project began in Alberta in 2001. In 2008 the project joined with British Columbia, Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces to form the Canadian Partnership for the Tomorrow Project. That initiative seeks to enrol 300,000 Canadians, making the project one of the largest studies of its kind in Canada.
Prospective participants can sign up online at www.in4tomorrow.ca or register by phone by calling 1-877-919-9292. Drop-ins at Vanier School are also welcomed. Wozney said the total time investment at the Study Centre is 45 minutes, approximately 2 hours with the inclusion of the questionnaire.