"It's been a long haul and an enormous amount of time and work," Davis said, whose 30-plus trips to the former Soviet Union include walking the grounds of the evacuated plant and surveying the desolated 30-kilometer evacuation zone.
Once the team established the capability to do the research, the group began its studies of thyroid cancer, a disease linked to radiation exposure. By the early 1990s, many new cases of the disease, particularly among young children, were diagnosed in regions near the blast. Since then, reports show several hundred cases of thyroid cancer in young children in the three countries contaminated by Chernobyl, a trend that appears to be continuing.
Despite the lack of resources available to initiate these studies, Davis said that scientists and citizens of the three countries were eager for the research from the start. "Our collaborators in Russia have been terrific colleagues," he said. "We now have very close ties with our partner institutions."
He also credited the strong encouragement and support from Fred Hutchinson's senior administration for helping him establish stable working relationships with their overseas colleagues.
"The incredible support and flexibility of the center, especially in the early stages, really made this happen. That can't be overstated," Davis said.