Karline Peal, 37, experienced cancer’s influence firsthand as a young adult when her mother was diagnosed with the disease.
Since then, Peal, Northwestern Hospital System’s director of oncology, has been involved with fundraisers such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
Her exceptional work with cancer patients has earned her the Lane Adams Award, a national award from the American Cancer Society.
Now she has taken the next in a long line of steps to fight cancer, by becoming involved in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention 3 (or CPS-3), a nationwide study on the disease’s causes.
Peal has helped her hospital system and community to get involved in the study and calls for others to do the same. Unlike other cancer studies, CPS-3 aims to track those without cancer through 20 years of their life to find the roots of the disease, and, hopefully, stop it in its tracks.
What is the study about?
Cancer Prevention Study 3 is about finding the causes of cancer. You have to take a survey online. It’s supposed to take 40 minutes but it took me 20 minutes to fill out. It’s about your living habits, what you do, exercise, what you eat. You make an appointment and they take a blood sample.
It’s a clinical trial, strictly run, so that’s why it’s so important to have an appointment. They take a blood sample and the amount of research that they can do with it is endless.
So many of the people that have signed up have been white women, but we need men and minorities to sign up as well. There’s not enough information unless more men and minorities get involved.
It’s really a prevention study. That way they can say that you haven’t been exercising, or that’s what you’ve eaten, and that’s all something that you’ve got in common.
Why is the study so important?
It’s so important because it might not cure our generation – the people we need to cure are between 30 and 60 years old – but it’s about our children and our children’s children. It’s about getting information to the researchers. It’s about getting information now to the people who know what to look for.
What findings do you hope to get?
Finding information for what causes cancer. Is it environmental? Genetic? CPS-1 is when they found a link between smoking and lung cancer. Looking at it now, it’s like, of course. Maybe the cure is something right in front of us, now. That’s why its so important to be involved.
The kind of neat thing about it is that every two years they’re going to send out a survey asking about your habits. That’s the really neat thing about being involved in the study. You’re going to be informed about their involvement, and know what’s going on.
It’s the first time they’re collecting blood from people without cancer. It’s like they’re waiting for people to get cancer. So many people get cancer, now. At least we’re going to contribute to preventions in the future.
Why are you participating in this study?
My mom lived for about four months after she was diagnosed, and then she passed away. That’s why it’s so important for me personally to be involved in this study. I don’t want that to happen to my family and my children.
They might find research on people who don’t get cancer. Like, why didn’t you get cancer? I’m doing it for them, and for our future.
I’m very involved in our hospital. I’m trying to get out to the communities and get people more involved.
Did losing your mother lead you into becoming the Director of Oncology for the Northwestern Hospital System?
It was interesting, because I had been accepted into my [radiation therapy] program at Indiana University, and a month later she was diagnosed. I think it was something that God led me to. It provided the support I needed to get through those early years.
I know what it’s like for the patients. I used to drive her to her treatments. I used to pull over on the side of the road to let her throw up. I used to give her her shots. I know how it affects a family. I know what the patients are going through, and I think that that’s something that really helps to connect me to the patients and help them better.
How do you participate in the study?
It’s really going to cps3illinois.org, signing up to make an appointment, and they have different times to fit different schedules. It’s a commitment. Donor supplies are being supplied for those appointments, so you need to show up. Other than that, they take blood, and you fill out about a 20-40 minute lifestyle questionnaire.
Who can participate in the study?
You have to be 30-65, and never have been diagnosed with a cancer. They will take you if you’ve had a basal or squamous cell, but not melanoma.
How many people are you hoping to enroll in the study?
I committed to about 175 at each of my two host sites [in Grayslake and Lake Forest]. Each host sites commit to about 175 to 200 participants. We really need to fill up the sites to not waste the donor’s resources, and, obviously, to help the study.
If you can’t enroll, please tell your family and friends to enroll. It’s groundbreaking research if you think about it, and who doesn’t want to be part of that?
We want to be cancer free. “We want more birthdays,” as the American Cancer Society says.
To enroll, visit http://www.cp3illinois.org. You can enroll in one of the following locations at the designated time and date.
Advocate Condell Medical Center
8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 25
West Tower Rooms 2 and 3, 801 S. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville
Vista Medical Center East, 6:30 to 10 a.m., Friday June 21 and 2 to 5 p.m., Wednesday June 26 Ground Floor Conference Room, 1324 N. Sheridan Road, Waukegan
Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital Friday June 21, 2013, 6:30 to 10 am; 2 to 5:30p.m., Wednesday, June 26; 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Thursday, June 27
Women’s Center – Iris Lily Room, 660 N. Westmoreland Road, Lake Forest
Thursday, June 27, 2013, 11:00 am – 3:30 pm