By Robin G. Pilus
Approximately 80 concerned Maui citizens attended the University of Hawaii Cancer Center’s outreach event, “Unraveling the Secrets of Cancer.” This special outreach was held February 22nd at UH-Maui Paina Leis Family Class Act Restaurant.
Earl Stoner, Maui citizen and member of the Board of the Friends of the UH Cancer Center was pleased that Maui was the first of the neighbor islands to be selected for the outreach effort.
“The consortium that is being formed by UH Cancer Center is broadening,” according to Stoner. ”We want Maui people to know about the great progress being made in Hawaii with the new facility, as well as in the areas of research, diagnosis and treatment.”
In October 2011, the Cancer Center broke ground on a $140 million, full scale facility that will allow it to leave scattered labs and offices behind. The new facility will help attract high quality reseachers and physicians and will allow the University the opportunity to pursue the important NCI (National Cancer Center) designation.
Hawaii is in a unique position to be a leader in the area of cancer research, specifically because of the state’s uniquely diverse population.
Dr. Lawrence Kolonel, Epidemiologist at the UH Cancer Center has been researching cancer in Hawaii since 1980. At that time he and a colleague in Southern California launched a cancer study involving 215,000 individuals.
Dr. Kolonel was a featured speaker at the Maui outreach event.
“Most people think of genetics when they think of cancer,” Kolonel explained. “However only 5% of all cancers are attributed to mutations of genes. The rest of cancers are from external factors, and the majority of those are attributed to lifestyles.”
Kolonel indicated that targeted cancer therapies are the emerging treatment. These therapies involve drugs that are more specific to particular cancer cells. The drugs involved are less toxic and do not kill healthy cells.
“Cancers do not occur equally in all groups,” Kolonel said. “Differences exist in groups and how they respond to exposure and susceptibility. The future is in personalized therapy and the research helps to develop those therapies.”
The importance of prevention and early detection was emphasized throughout the morning’s event.
According to Kolonel, “The one thing I would most like to emphasize is prevention,” he said. “But any cancer caught sufficiently early enough can be cured.”
Additional information is available at University of Hawaii Cancer Center.