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Caterpillar Inc. bolsters Southern Community Study with $1 million gift

Nov. 19, 2003, 8:40 AM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS), the
largest population-based health study of African-Americans
ever conducted, has received a critical infusion of support from
Caterpillar Inc., which has pledged $1 million to the historic

A $22 million, five-year federal grant to fund the study is significant
but fell $6 million short of the initial proposal. The
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center has committed to raise the shortfall
through private philanthropy.

The pledge from Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of
construction and mining equipment, natural gas and diesel engines
and industrial gas turbines, is the largest private gift thus far. The
study is an innovative collaboration among Vanderbilt, Meharry Medical
College, the International Epidemiology Institute and federally funded
community health centers (CHCs) throughout the Southeast.

"This is an ambitious project of national and international
importance," said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health
Affairs at Vanderbilt. "We must meet the challenge of ensuring
that advances in medicine are shared equally, regardless of race,
geography or economic status. This generous gift from Caterpillar goes
a long way toward ensuring that the full promise of this landmark study
will be realized."

The study will provide critical information to help understand – and
ultimately address – why African-Americans and residents of the
Southeast are at greater risk of developing and dying from cancer than
other groups. While the study’s initial focus is on cancer, the cohort
will provide invaluable information for the study of other significant
health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke, all of
which also disproportionately affect African-Americans and

"When it comes to social responsibility, Caterpillar makes betterment
of the world a formal part of its corporate strategy," said Vanderbilt
Chancellor E. Gordon Gee. "This pledge is an outstanding illustration
of that commitment, and provides an important infusion of support for
the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s program in epidemiology.

"I also want to thank Caterpillar for its decade of support for
Vanderbilt and the Owen School and to express my hopes that Caterpillar
and Vanderbilt will find many creative ways to work together in the
years to come."

"Caterpillar’s leadership has been impressed with the ambitious scope
of the SCCS and with its ultimate goal of eliminating racial, ethnic
and regional disparities in cancer and other diseases," said Douglas R.
Oberhelman, group president of Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar Inc.

"In the discussions that we had with the lead investigators, it became
clear that they have an extraordinary vision," Oberhelman said.
"Caterpillar is a company that is committed to equal opportunity and
that is, it seemed to us, what the Southern Community Cohort Study is
all about. We are pleased to have the opportunity to support and
participate in such an important endeavor to ensure that the burden of
cancer and other diseases is reduced for everyone, regardless of race
or circumstance."

The SCCS began enrolling participants in spring of 2002, with a total
recruitment goal of 105,000 people, two-thirds of them
African-American. To date, more than 20,000 participants have been
enrolled in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina,
Florida and Kentucky. More than 80 percent are African-American.

Participants are extensively interviewed about their diet, exercise
habits and other lifestyle factors that may be involved in
disease, and blood and/or saliva samples are being collected. The
cohort will be followed for many years, and the various lifestyle and
biologic (genetic) factors will be analyzed to determine differences
between those that develop (and die from) disease and those that do

Such a prospective population-based study is the gold standard when it
comes to identifying causes of disease, but to date, the major
population-based studies have under-represented
African-Americans. This is also the first such study to be
conducted in the South. By necessity, this type of research takes
many years; however, private philanthropic support to augment the
bare-bones budget provided by the National Cancer Institute will fuel
quicker enrollment. That, in turn, will speed epidemiologic analysis
and follow-up, the lead investigators say.

The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, part of Vanderbilt University and
Medical Center in Nashville, is the only National Cancer
Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Tennessee and one
of only 39 in the United States. This designation is the highest
awarded by the NCI, one of the National Institutes of Health and
world’s foremost authority on cancer. It recognizes excellence in
all aspects of cancer research, the development of innovative new
therapies and a demonstrated commitment to the community through
education, information and outreach. For more information, visit

Contact: Cynthia Floyd Manley, 615-936-5711