Many organizations are eager to help firefighters who often put their life on the line helping others. The Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Health System in Miami Florida and Health Longevity Incorporated (HLI) in San Diego California have scientists and staff working with the firefighters.
An important collaboration between Florida firefighters and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center resulted in the creation of the Firefighter Cancer Initiative (FCI).
Leni Benitez an R.N. with the Miami Department of Fire-Rescue collaborates with Natasha Schaefer Solle, Katerina Santiago and others from the FCI. Together they are doing amazing work.
Through a series of projects, including a bio-bank, they are working to better understand the risks firefighters are exposed to. They are also studying methods to educate firefighters in prevention, screening and early detection. They are one of the leaders in this work.
FCI Current Projects:
Annual Cancer Survey | Principal Investigator: Dr. Natasha Schaefer Solle
Using data collected through a survey firefighters will complete annually, investigators are working to understand cancer risks specific to Florida firefighters and create a database of the risks and behaviors of all Florida firefighters. This project now also includes the AERIAL (Advancing Epidemiology of Retired fIrefighters Aging Longitudinally) survey. Originally launched in the initiative’s second year (2016-2017), AERIAL focuses on retired firefighters and seeks to understand what cancers are diagnosed during retirement among previously active combat firefighters and what occupational exposures during active employment and/or hygiene factors led to cancers.
Environmental Sampling Program | Principal Investigator: Dr. Sylvia Daunert
The environmental sampling team is working on monitoring carcinogens and hazardous compounds off-gassing in turnout gear, improving the wristband analysis method developed in year two (2016-2017), and developing wearable technology for monitoring carcinogens and hazardous compounds.
Florida Firefighter Cancer Registry | Principal Investigator: Dr. David Lee
The Florida Firefighter Cancer Registry project will link Fire Marshal certification records to Florida Cancer Data System records to identify cancers disproportionality impacting Florida firefighters.
Exposure App | Principal Investigator: Dr. Barbara Millet and Clay Ewing
The Exposure App’s development team is creating an application to allow firefighters to keep a digital record of on-the-job exposures that can be used by researchers to find evidence of cancer related to firefighting. This information will help supplement firefighter’s personal health records. Meanwhile, the Exposure App’s User Experience investigators are working closely with the application’s development team to ensure the tool’s design, functionality, features, content, and overall usability will help meet the project’s objective.
Train the Trainer | Principal Investigator: Dr. Erin Kobetz
The Train the Trainer project team will be collaborating with the Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education to develop a curriculum for cancer prevention in the fire service. The knowledge gained during the Health Communication project will also help inform the development of this curriculum.
Cancer Screening | Principal Investigator: Dr. Natasha Schaefer Solle
The Cancer Screening project provides colorectal and cervical cancer screening to eligible active firefighters with the implementation of home-based screening tools. Additionally, in year three (2017-2018), the cancer screening project has incorporated the Guardrails project which was first included as part of the initiative in 2016. The Guardrails Wellness Program uses customized nutrition and exercise recommendations to optimize health and combat cancer risk in firefighters.
Tumor Bank | Principal Investigator: Dr. Alberto Caban-Martinez
Improving care for fighters with cancer requires research into the molecular mechanisms of cancer cells. To investigate these mechanisms, fresh tumor specimens are required. This project will establish a tumor bank to make these specimens available to cancer researchers here at Sylvester.
FCI Completed Projects:
Health Communication | Principal Investigator: Dr. Tyler Harrison
The Health Communication project investigators worked to understand firefighter culture, work, and knowledge about cancer. They also designed education and behavior change campaign materials.
PBDE & Thyroid Function | Principal Investigator: Dr. Natasha Schaefer Solle
Investigators examined the association between PBDE levels and thyroid function of active South Florida firefighters. The project worked to describe and characterize the quality and quantity of PBDE present in the blood of firefighters by type of occupational exposure (i.e., years in the fire service, job title, firefighter duties).
San Diego Firefighters/Human Longevity, Inc.
In another effort to reduce cancer risk, FirefighterAid, a non-profit in San Diego, California has partnered with Human Longevity, inc. (HLI). See FirefighterAid.org. FirefighterAid has started the Cancer Awareness and Prevention Program (CAPP). CAPP reinforces best practices for firefighters in the workplace specializing in Clean Air, Clear Body, and Clean Gear.
HLI is a genomic-based, health intelligence company on a mission to improve human health. Click on humanlongevity.com to learn more. HLI combines gene sequencing, whole body MRI and a cardiac scan through their Health Nucleus X (HNX) research program.
100 San Diego Firefighters have participated in the HNX assessment program. HLI is looking for cancer biomarkers, gene variants, cardiovascular disease or anything else to assist in their health. Participants will get followup doctor and genetic consultation.
We would like to thank the firefighters who have volunteered as well as Carly Wund from FirefighterAid and Tim Malatesta from HLI for their work. Only through participation will we make a difference in our fight against cancer.
I would like to thank Miami Fire-Rescue Chiefs Fernandez, Jorge, and Captain Martinez for their input.