Pratt & Whitney study - (cancer clusters) glioblastoma multiforme


AP Connecticut
Pratt cancer researchers push for more participation in study

AP Business Writer

March 2, 2006, 1:31 AM EST

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Too few people have agreed to participate in the
massive study of brain cancer at jet-engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a
researcher said Wednesday.

Gary Marsh, the University of Pittsburgh researcher heading the study,
said only about 25 percent of the thousands of people who are eligible
have agreed to participate and another 25 percent have refused.

He said participation needs to improve to make the study a strong
scientific project.

"It's just kind of discouraging," Marsh said before a meeting with members
of families of deceased workers, state officials and health experts.
"There's a fair amount of indifference. It's kind of surprising."

Marsh and his team are trying to determine whether a cancer cluster exists
at Pratt, and if so, what may be the cause.

Pratt, a division of Hartford-based United Technologies Corp., and the
state Department of Health began the study in 2002 after complaints from
families of workers who had died from glioblastoma multiforme, a form of
brain cancer. They documented more than three dozen such deaths among
hundreds of thousands who have worked at Pratt since the early 1950s.

Glioblastoma is the most frequent brain tumor and accounts for between 12
percent and 15 percent of all brain tumors, which are projected at 18,820
this year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which
represents employees at the jet engine manufacturer, has also urged
greater participation in the study, Marsh said.

Debra Belancik, the union's environmental health and safety coordinator,
said employees are interested.

"Concerns are high," she said. "It's not just a North Haven issue. It's
everyone's issue."

Carol Shea, whose husband, John, died in 2000 at age 56, said a group she
helped organize, Worked to Death, will work with the Machinists union to
inform workers about the study.

"There's no good reason to not participate," she said.

Participants agree to be interviewed and consent to the release of medical
records and genetic information.

Shea, who attended the meeting Wednesday, also said she is pleased with
the direction the study is headed.

"I'm much happier with this than ages ago," she said. "They're really
looking into a lot more what we want."

Last month, the state Supreme Court unanimously rejected a wrongful death
claim by families who sued Pratt over the cancer deaths, saying that the
plaintiffs' window to seek damages had already closed.

The company employs about 12,000 workers in Cheshire, East Hartford and
Middletown. The study also will look at those who worked in former Pratt &
Whitney plants in North Haven, Rocky Hill, Southington and Manchester.

Marsh said the study is on track for release of preliminary information at
the end of 2007. Researchers are about done with the identification phase
of the study, determining that the records of 257,000 who have worked at
Pratt since 1952.

In addition, researchers have compiled 319,000 records in a "job
dictionary" that lists job classifications, said Nurtan Esmen of the
University of Illinois. The records are expected to help researchers
pinpoint manufacturing processes that may have contributed to workplace
illness and death.

To give an example of the scope of the project, even a 30-second review of
each job classification represents more than 2,600 hours of work, Esmen


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