RPCV Breast Cancer Research Update

The three year RPCV Breast Cancer Research Study conducted by Baylor University is completed and evidently was unable to collect sufficient data. The study was examining the possibility that women who took chloroquine (Aralen) as an anti-malaria drug had a reduced risk of breast cancer over their lifetimes. Chloroquine has been used in conjunction with chemotherapy in some breast cancer patients. Animal studies conducted at Baylor suggested that the drug may also reduce the breast cancer risk.The plan was to study a human female population that had taken chloroquine to determine if the population had a reduced risk of breast cancer.

This drug, commercial name Aralen, had been given to Peace Corps Volunteers in malaria areas from 1961 to about 1990. It was discontinued as it was no longer effective against malaria. Peace Corps women were not the only population that was given this drug. The US Military also prescribed the drug to its soldiers in malaria areas, principally Southeast Asia and Central America. Baylor researchers decided that Peace Corps women would be their target population.

This was not an official Peace Corps study. Baylor could not access the medical records, the names and birth dates, or even the service assignments of Peace Corps Women. Instead, the study had to rely on self- reporting. The research group developed a comprehensive online questionnaire to gather this information. Respondent Driven Sampling was the  method used to identify this population. Baylor entered into a relationship with the National Peace Corps Association to publicize the study and encourage Peace Corps women to participate.

The National Peace Corps Association has a comprehensive description of the study and also the final statement from the Baylor group. The webpage highlights the current status of the report, but it also includes the initial description of the plan. Read it at the webpage of the National Peace Corps Association:   http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/cancerstudy/

“Breast Cancer Risk Study for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers”

Status as of September 2015:

From the Baylor College of Medicine: “Thank you to you and the entire Peace Corps community for your support of the study, A TRANSLATIONAL APPROACH TO VALIDATE IN-VIVO ANTI-TUMOR EFFECTS OF CHLOROQUINE ON BREAST CANCER RISK. Based on interim analysis, we have decided to revise our methodology. Therefore, we are ending this phase of the study. Although we are not continuing this survey, we have learned a great deal that we will incorporate into future research, which we will continue to share with the RPCV community. We look forward to communicating our results to you as soon as our analysis is complete.”

From National Peace Corps Association (NPCA): We will share any results shared by the Baylor College of Medicine regarding this study when received by NPCA by posting to our website and/or emailing to our entire community. Note that all communications regarding this study to our community were sent by NPCA on behalf of the study; NPCA did not provide a database or mailing list to Baylor College of Medicine.”

This is important because in the final report, dated July 2015, from the Baylor Research group final report, there was this final statement:”

CONCLUSION:

“We have begun to accrue subjects and gather data, but we have not yet analyzed the results. Since respondent Driven Sampling has failed to meet our recruitment goals, we have taken steps to implement our alternative plan: traditional snowball sampling from the National Peace Corps mailing list of over 35,000 people. Implementation of the alternate plan will take place in 2015-16, and will be funded via other sources.”

I would like to emphasize, again,  this statement from NPCA:

“Note that all communications regarding this study to our community were sent by NPCA on behalf of the study; NPCA did not provide a database or mailing list to Baylor College of Medicine.”

Here is the link to the entire final Baylor report: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a625157.pdf

The National Peace Corps Association noted some discrepancies in this final report and is working to have them corrected.  When a final revised report is made available, it will be posted.

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