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Cancer Biomarkers Research Group

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Extraordinary Opportunities for Early Cancer Detection and Risk Assessment Research

NCI Sponsored Early Detection Research

Over an eight-year period (1992-1999), the funding for molecular cancer research has risen from 330 million in 1992 to 820 million in 1999. During this period, the number of funded grants in molecular disease (contracts not included) rose to 2957 in 1999 from 1622 in 1992. The grants addressing the area of early detection also grew in number and funded amount; 206 ($36 million) in 1992 to 455 ($94 million) in 2000. These analyses point to emerging progress in the development and testing of early detection strategies, but such advances develop slowly. The reasons may be attributed to: 1) a lack of integrated approach to molecular detection and screening, and 2) a lack of appropriate tissue collections of preneoplastic lesions for the evaluation of the molecular changes. As a result, much work in this area is fragmented into numerous small studies; the results of which cannot be generalized to other populations. In many instances, the population of inference cannot even be defined. The availability of large collections of clinically well-defined preneoplastic and neoplastic lesions, collected with ancillary demographic and epidemiological data, is an absolute requirement for the development and testing of early detection strategies. Collections of defined tissues from high-risk individuals and associated demographic and epidemiologic data could lead to the successful development of a molecular test for identifying high-risk subgroups, particularly if the collection is population-based rather than hospital-based.

The challenges in molecular detection are multi-disciplinary in nature, and several biomarker characteristics must be considered. There are also many issues at the basic science level, the development of technology, and the translation of laboratory findings to clinical and population-based applications. Ongoing interaction between basic scientists, oncologists, clinicians, pathologists, geneticists, bio-statisticians, epidemiologists and other health professionals is critical to the successful application of new discoveries for early cancer detection. The CBRG will facilitate such interaction through the informal and formal discussions with the extramural community.

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