UTHCT physician receives grant to establish Texas Cancer Registry of East Texas

Thursday, October 12, 2006

An occupational medicine physician at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has received state funding to establish the Texas Cancer Registry of East Texas. The cancer registry will be headquartered at the Health Center.

“In the past, cancer cases have been underreported in the northeast region of Texas. The reporting has also been incomplete. Our goal is to increase reporting from facilities in Northeast Texas,” said Debra Cherry, MD, an assistant professor of occupational health sciences at UTHSCT. Hospitals are required to report new cases of cancer to the state’s registry.

Dr. Cherry is the principal investigator of the initial $185,000 grant from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The grant is made up of funds from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An accurate regional cancer registry is important because it collects data that then can be used to identify possible clusters of cancer cases, Dr. Cherry said. A cancer registry also can highlight areas where cancer survival rates appear to be better or worse than in other areas.

Organizations that gather cancer data include the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results program (SEER). SEER relies on medical and health care institutions in a specific geographic area to report every new case of cancer. Data from these areas are then used to estimate cancer cases for a larger geographic area, such as an individual state or the entire country.

The American Cancer Society also records cases of cancer in each state. These data are based on estimates, whereas Texas Cancer Registry data reflect the actual number of cases reported. ACS estimates are based on sources such as the number of death certificates that list a type of cancer as the cause of death. However, sometimes cancer may be responsible for a person’s death even though the death certificate lists another cause, such as pneumonia or heart failure. In those cases, the deaths aren’t recorded as being caused by cancer.

“These data don’t tell us about specific cancer cases in Texas,” said Dr. Cherry, who is board certified in occupational medicine and has a master’s in environmental science. She also has experience in pediatrics training, epidemiology, and occupational and environmental medicine.

As part of Dr. Cherry’s grant, tumor registrars – individuals trained to use medical, pathology, and death records to find cases of cancer and to locate the primary site of the cancer in each individual – will be located in Tyler. The registrars will assist and train staff at hospitals and health care centers to ensure that cancer cases are being reported correctly and submitted electronically to the Texas Cancer Registry’s statewide database.

“If there is a suspected cancer cluster in Northeast Texas, we’ll have better, more complete data,” she said. “We hope that these data ultimately can be used for research.”

The Texas Cancer Registry receives about 140,000 reports of cancer annually from some 450 health facilities located around the state. The registry’s purpose is to provide data to Texas health care practitioners, cancer researchers, health planners, the public, and other state and national entities.

NOTICE: Protected health information is subject to electronic disclosure.