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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 874-7892

Wanted: Healthy men aged 50 to 75 for cancer study
Vioxx being evaluated at URI as anti-cancer drug

Wives: Are your husbands alert to prostate health?

KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 4, 2003 -- The Clinical Trials section of URI Health Services has been selected to conduct studies of a promising drug to combat prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States.

The University of Rhode Island is now recruiting at least 25 men between the ages of 50 and 75 to participate in the study, which is being sponsored by Merck & Co. A total of 15,000 men are being sought by 600 health centers nationwide. Following screening, volunteers will take one pill a day for six years. Participants will be monitored periodically for the duration of the study

The drug being tested is Vioxx, the anti-inflammatory drug that has been on the market for more than three years and which has been used successfully to fight pain from arthritis and other ailments.

"Serendipitously it was learned that in addition to combating inflammation, Vioxx also has anti-cancer properties," said Dr. David Whitaker, medical director of clinical trials at URI. "The scientific data at this point suggests that Vioxx shows great promise in its ability to prevent prostate cancer, and it could be good for other cancers as well."

It’s not unusual, according to Whitaker, for a new use to be discovered for an existing medication. For example, while Inderal has been used to reduce high blood pressure for many years, it was later learned that it also effectively eases the anxiety caused by public speaking.

More than 30,000 men die each year from prostate cancer. Those with elevated risk for contracting the disease include men over age 50, Blacks, and those with a history of prostate cancer in their families.

The Federal Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical companies provide oversight of all clinical trials in the U.S to ensure that the trials are conducted safely. "This clinical trials process that we’re participating in is the way all new medicines and vaccines are developed," Whitaker said. "Any medicine you’ve ever taken has come through this arduous process."

URI was selected as a study site because of its long-standing relationship with many of the major pharmaceutical companies. "Clinical trials have been conducted here for more than 20 years, so when Merck was looking for a site in our area, they chose us," said Whitaker.

For more information or to volunteer to participate in the trials, contact the URI Clinical Studies Coordinator June Newman or Dr. Whitaker at 401-782-2570 or

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Page last revised Thursday, September 4, 2003 .