Researchers from the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center announced Monday that it received a $2.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to carry out a longitudinal blood cancer study. The five-year study, led by professor Julie Ross, will examine 700 Minnesotans newly diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a group of cancers of the blood and bone marrow that is known to lead to acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in one-third of cases. This is considered to be one of the largest epidemiological studies of MDS to date. Minnesota has among the highest rate of MDS cases in the United States. Overall, about 10,000 people nationally are diagnosed with the disease. The disease is more common among men, with the average being 75. The goal of the study is to identify the risk factors for developing MDS, as well as the genetic, lifestyle or environmental factors that then lead MDS patients to develop AML. Researchers will collect information from a combination of patient records, responses and DNA information using saliva samples, said Ross, director of the Medical SchoolâÄôs Pediatric Epidemiology and Clinical Research division. Once theyâÄôve gathered enough information, the researchers hope to create an AML âÄúrisk modelâÄù for MDS patients. Once the researchers determine which patients carry the highest risk of developing AML, they will monitor them more closely and determine whether certain medical or dietary changes impact their outcome, Ross said. When a patient is diagnosed with AML, the prognosis is âÄúusually not very good,âÄù Ross said. âÄúThatâÄôs one reason weâÄôre hoping to find out why people develop it.âÄù The research team also includes investigators from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Mayo Clinic. The study will include assistance from the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System as well as various physicians and health care providers throughout Minnesota and neighboring states. Researchers will recruit patients diagnosed with MDS between October 31, 2004, and April 1, 2010, in addition to an equal number of people without MDS. A total of 1,400 people between the ages of 20 and 85 will participate in the study.