David H. Murdock

Kannapolis Mayor enrolls in long term research study

January 24, 2014
By Bob Holmes
  • – BOB HOLMES
    Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant has his blood drawn during his participation in the MURDOCK Study.
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    For more information on how and where to enroll in the MURDOCK Study, visit www.murdock-study.org, call 704-250-5861 or email murdock-study@duke.edu. ZIP codes eligible for the study can be seen on the website by clicking the “Am I Eligible?” button on the home page.

Earlier this month, Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant joined the effort to help reclassify health and disease by participating in the MURDOCK Study at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis.

As someone with a background in science who believes in the benefits of genetic research, Hinnant thought it was time to become involved in the research study.

Hinnant said he was comfortable with the information the researchers had given him and the taking of samples.

“I think in order for the study to be of value, it needs to have as many people as possible participating,” he said. “I hope that my joining will encourage someone else to sign up.”

Like all previous volunteers, Hinnant completed a detailed health questionnaire and provided a small sample of blood and urine to be stored at a local biorepository. He also spoke with a clinical assistant, who informed him of the measures researchers take to safeguard his, and other participants’, medical information.

The one-time registration process took about 45 minutes. Then every year on the anniversary of his enrollment, a new questionnaire will be sent to him in order to keep his health information up to date.

The Measurement to Understand the Reclassification of Disease Of Cabarrus/Kannapolis, or MURDOCK, is a community-based health study made possible by a donation in 2007 to Duke University from the research campus’s founder, David H. Murdock.

Researchers hope to follow the participants’ health for up to 50 years in order to track long-term changes that could lead to breakthroughs that would be unlikely to be discovered with less comprehensive data.

The study obtains its data and biological specimens from volunteers who live in 18 ZIP codes in Cabarrus County and Kannapolis. It enrolled its first participant in 2009 and reached 10,000 volunteers last year.

The stated goal of the project is to sign up 50,000 individuals in a community registry by 2018. That number would represent one-third of the adult population in the area where people are being enrolled, which would ensure a wide variety of samples.

Since the study began, there have been challenges in the recruitment of volunteers, according to Perla Nunes, clinical trials project leader.

“A lot of people are concerned with their health data being kept private,” said Nunes, 49, of Concord. “There’s no intervention with this project, but we still go into a lot of detail with how we’re going to maintain confidentiality. That’s why our informed consent is eight pages long.”

Getting word out about the study has been a challenge, Nunes said. “We’ve found that word-of-mouth has been our greatest source of referrals.”

Duke University scientists and researchers have then used the data and biological specimen samples in clinical trials and research studies to find more effective ways to help prevent, diagnose and treat such diverse illnesses as heart disease, diabetes, severe acne, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Significant findings have been made since the inception of the project.

In 2009, researchers associated with the MURDOCK Study discovered a biomarker that indicated which patients with hepatitis C would respond positively to treatments with the drug interferon.

And last summer, a principal investigator for the MURDOCK Study collaborated with colleagues to publish a paper stating they had found a new biomarker that would indicate whether aspirin therapy would be effective for certain people in the prevention of heart attacks.

While there is still much to accomplish, the MURDOCK Study continues to make substantial breakthroughs in the field of medical science, according to Christy Flynn, a clinical trials assistant. And every participant in this study has the potential to help researchers and physicians improve their understanding of diseases.

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