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Jewish men needed for study
Jewish Men Needed for National Study on Prostate Cancer

by Carol Katzman
Editor, Jewish Press (Omaha, NE)
April 25, 2001

OMAHA -- The incidence of prostate cancer among Jewish men is no higher than among the general population, yet researchers have chosen this population to study because of a common genetic heritage.

Jason Caplan, a third-year medical student at Creighton University, is coordinating a local effort to enlist Jewish men to participate in a national genetic study.

"We're looking for two groups of Jewish men," he told the Jewish Press recently. "One group includes any Jewish man of any age who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer; the other group needed for the study is Jewish men over the age of 50 without prostate cancer."

The national study is headed by Dr. Robert Burk at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Dr. Burk, who is works in the areas of pediatrics, oncology and genetics, already has funding for the study from AECOM and is awaiting word on other large grants.

Burk is a full professor who deals with the etiology of cancer in man, including hereditary cancers (like prostate cancer), as well as the molecular epidemiology of human papillomavirus infection and humoral response to cervical HPV infection.

"This is an unusual way to conduct a study," Caplan noted. "As it's done entirely by mail. Because the Jewish population is highly educated, they're also more likely to respond.

"The study is entitled CLAL, which stands for Cancer, Longevity, Ancestry and Lifestyle," Caplan continued, "but is also a play on the Hebrew word clal, which means community."

Participants who are interested can call the toll-free number, 1-877-444-2525 or visit the study's website:, for information.

Caplan, who is originally from Manchester, England, is excited about the study. He looks at his association with the study and Dr. Burk as a golden opportunity.

Those who agree to participate will be mailed a packet containing a confidential questionairre, which covers the individual's lifestyle, family health history and current health status, and a small medical kit.

The kit contains two swabs, which the participant will use to swab the inside of his cheeks and mail in an approved, closed envelope to the research headquarters at the medical school.

"There are no 'results' from this confidential study for individuals," Caplan explained. "We will be using the genetic material and data base of the answers to the thousands of questionairres to determine if, in fact, there is a Jewish genetic predisposition to prostate cancer.

"However, we are not testing individuals for prostate cancer," he added. "For that, men should see their doctors for annual exams and screenings."

The scientists working with Dr. Burk are looking to see if there's something on the strands of DNA different in the two groups: those Jewish men diagnosed with prostate cancer and those without.

Caplan spent a summer working with Dr. Burk in New York and will return again to continue research with him.

"There are already a few thousand participants in this study," Caplan concluded, "but the larger the sample, the more valuable the results, which are statistically more significant."

The CLAL study has been working through B'nai B'rith International to recruit Jewish men to participate.

Caplan has been in touch with Gary Javitch, President of the Henry Monsky Lodge of B'nai B'rith in Omaha to enlist his help in recruiting members locally.

Jewish men from Florida, New York, New Jersey, California, Ohio, Illinois, Israel, Australia and England will also be recruited. Caplan wants Nebraska to be part of that pool as well.

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