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Health system in Wisconsin tapped for cancer trial

Caduceus, file photo. (Photo courtesy MGN Online)

LA CROSSE (AP) -- Health care facilities in La Crosse and Onalaska are looking to recruit 6,000 women for a nationwide clinical trial being done to gauge whether blood tests can be developed to detect breast cancer early.

California-based life sciences company GRAIL Inc. announced the trial Thursday, saying the project would involve 120,000 women, The La Crosse Tribune reported. The facilities in Wisconsin are part of Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare.

The trial marks the company's second multi-center study. It also has enlisted several other Mayo Clinic sites, including the main campus in Rochester, Minnesota, as well as facilities in Arizona and Florida.

Mayo-Franciscan's biobank project attracted the company, according to Carolyn Flock, facilities' research operations manager for Mayo-Franciscan. The project, which launched in August 2013, involves collecting volunteers' blood to be part of a library to help researchers find causes and cures for diseases.

"We have very willing participants in the La Crosse area," Flock said.

Study organizers said they were looking for radiology specialists with a background in molecular biology, like Dr. Richard Ellis, a breast-care radiology and imaging specialist at Mayo-Franciscan.

"I'll have the great joy of wearing two hats in the study," Ellis said. "I'll have a research hat and a clinical hat."

Flock said female volunteers for the study will be asked if they would like to have their blood drawn during regular mammography screenings. Participants will also complete an electronic questionnaire and give permission for follow-up on their clinical outcomes, according to study organizers.

"It will be a totally blind study, and nobody -- not patients or doctors -- will know the results," Ellis said.

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