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Cancer Biomarkers Research Group

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Extraordinary Opportunities for Early Cancer Detection and Risk Assessment Research

Introduction

The Bypass Budget for 2001 entitled "The Nation's Investment in Cancer Research" describes several "extraordinary opportunities" that have tremendous potential for advancing our understanding of cancer prevention, detection, and intervention. The Bypass Budget identifies areas where expanded research in molecular medicine, genetics, and biology could elucidate factors that contribute to the molecular circuitry of human cancer, a disease of altered genes, their functions and their products. Identifying how distinct genes regulate the progression of precancerous cells into cancerous ones is an important step towards identifying individuals who are at increased risk for developing cancer. With a better understanding of how aberrant genes influence cancer development, more effective detection modalities could identify precancerous lesions early - before clinically defined cancer develops.

Currently, normal cells can be histologically distinguished from cancerous cells, but the clinical utility of molecular detection is not practical, except for a few diseases. With years often separating initial genetic mutation from a fully developed cancer, a window of opportunity exists where sensitive, clinical biomolecular assays could identify the presence of premalignant cells and individuals at risk. Such tests will most likely be designed around cancer genes and their products, but these genes must be proven molecular characteristics of a cancer cell. The CBRG, in collaboration with other programs, is charged with undertaking the "extraordinary opportunity" of translating biomarkers for early cancer detection and risk assessment from their development in the laboratory to their use in the clinic.

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