MURDOCK Study starts enrolling volunteers
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó Textile manufacturing gave Kannapolis a purpose and an identity for 100 years.
Now the mill is gone, replaced by the N.C. Research Campus, and a massive medical study offers Kannapolis a second chance to make a name for itself while making a difference for sick people across the globe.
Duke University’s MURDOCK Study began enrolling 50,000 volunteers Monday. Their blood and medical information could help researchers, armed with new genetic tools, discover better treatments for cancer, multiple sclerosis, liver disease, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
Kannapolis, decimated by the closing of Pillowtex in 2003, can “do something again,” said Bobbie Beam, 75, a retired nurse and the first person to officially enroll in the study’s registry.
Born in Kannapolis, Beam said residents have a duty to their “fellow man” to make the world a better place. Her father, a diabetic, lost both legs by the time he was 50 years old.
The size and scope of the MURDOCK Study are unprecedented, said Dr. Ashley Dunham, coordinator for the registry. The effort compares to the groundbreaking Framingham Heart Study, which discovered that high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking cause heart disease.
Study participants, who must live in Kannapolis or Cabarrus County, fill out a 12-page questionnaire, sign a seven-page consent form and give blood. Researchers could follow them for decades.
“I have very good veins,” Beam said as Duke phlebotomist Michelle Smerek prepared to draw seven tubes, or about three tablespoons, of blood.
Waiting in the hall for his turn, the Rev. Andy Langford said the study offers Kannapolis and Cabarrus County a way to make a meaningful contribution again “after some rough years.”
Pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Concord, Langford said participating in the study is his gift to his children and grandchildren.
Ed Tyson, former superintendent for Kannapolis City Schools, called the long-term possibilities for the study “mind-boggling.”
The second person to enroll in the registry, Tyson said he felt a “personal connection” because his immediate family has suffered from heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
“It was an easy decision,” he said. “The study is historic.”
Named for Research Campus founder David Murdock, the study stands for Measurement to Understand Reclassification of Disease Of Cabarrus/Kannapolis. Murdock gave Duke $35 million in 2007 to launch the study, which eventually could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Funded by Murdock’s gift, more than a dozen researchers began work last year using banked biological samples at Duke. As world-class equipment at the burgeoning N.C. Research Campus comes online, researchers will begin testing the new samples in Kannapolis, Dunham said.
She called the study a “perfect storm,” a timely intersection of three thingsóMurdock’s gift, new technologies that allow study of disease on a genetic level, and a pool of 50,000 volunteers.
“It will bring hope to some people who have been plagued by disease,” she said.
Researchers from across the globe will compete for the chance to work on the study and have access to the biological samples volunteers will provide, Dunham said.
People who enroll in the registry are signing up for a general database, not a study of a particular disease. Targeted studies will begin later this year.
Beam, the retired nurse, said people are still skeptical about the MURDOCK Study, including her son, who said he wasn’t “going to be a guinea pig.”
But Beam said she thinks of herself and other registry volunteers as pioneers.
With the study, Kannapolis will have a “spotlight in the world,” she said.
To enroll in the MURDOCK Study registry, call 877-673-2508, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.murdock-study.org.