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Prostate Cancer Prevention Study Opens at Fox Chase Cancer Center

A new prostate cancer prevention study at Fox Chase Cancer Center is open for participation by eligible men.

Called SELECT, the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial will evaluate the effects of the trace mineral selenium and vitamin E on rates of prostate cancer. As antioxidants, selenium and vitamin E may help control the cell damage that can lead to cancer. Selenium is found in water and foods, especially in grains, seafood, meats and Brazil nuts. Vitamin E occurs in a wide range of foods, from vegetables and vegetable oils to nuts and egg yolks.

Two earlier studies focusing on the possible prevention of other types of cancers suggested that selenium and vitamin E might prevent prostate cancer. In one, a 10-year cancer prevention study in the United States, the rate of prostate cancer was reduced by almost two-thirds among men who took daily selenium supplements. The U. S. study population came from a region of the eastern United States with relatively low selenium levels in soils and crops. Compared with people who received a placebo (inactive pill), those who took daily doses of selenium had 63 percent fewer cases of prostate cancer, 58 percent fewer colon or rectal cancers and 45 percent fewer lung cancers (Journal of the American Medical Association, Dec. 25, 1996).

The second study, conducted in Finland by the U. S. National Cancer Institute and the National Public Health Institute of Finland, found that vitamin E also reduced the risk of prostate cancer. Male smokers who took vitamin E supplements had a one-third reduction in prostate cancer incidence and a 40 percent reduction in prostate cancer mortality compared to those who took a placebo (the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene-ATBC-Cancer Prevention Study, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, March 18, 1998).

Neither of these studies, however, focused directly on prostate cancer. SELECT is the first study to look directly at the effect of selenium and/or vitamin E on prostate cancer risk.

"It's important that men not self-medicate using over-the-counter versions of selenium and vitamin E," advised Paul F. Engstrom, MD, principal investigator for the study at Fox Chase. "We don't know enough about the possible side effects of these substances, so taking them without medical guidance is not advised. Also, even for the men in the study, continued prostate cancer screening is critical."

Men who are 55 years or older may be eligible if they are generally in good health, have never had prostate cancer and have not had any other cancer for the past five years (except skin cancer). African American men may enroll if they are 50 years or older. This lower age for eligibility is because African Americans tend to develop prostate cancer younger than men in other ethnic groups. African Americans have the world's highest risk of prostate cancer-more than twice the risk of white American men.

For a period of up to 12 years, participants in the new prevention trial may receive both selenium and vitamin E or a placebo replacing one or both. SELECT is a double-blind trial, so neither participants nor the health professionals involved will know who is receiving which medication. NCI is funding the new study, which is coordinated by the Southwest Oncology Group. Fox Chase and its Network hospitals are among more than 400 sites across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico chosen to offer SELECT. The goal is to enroll 32,400 men in the trial. Recruitment for the study is expected to take five to seven years.

Participants will receive regular follow-up every six months at their study site as well as telephone follow-up twice during the first year. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in America. More than 180,000 U.S. men develop prostate cancer each year and nearly 32,000 die of the disease annually.

For more information about SELECT or to refer a patient, please call Fox Chase Cancer Center at 1-800-ENROLL ME (1-800-367-6556). Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at www.fccc.edu.


Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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