About the Early Detection Research Group

The Early Detection Research Group supports research that seeks to determine the effectiveness, operating characteristics, and clinical impact (harms as well as benefits) of cancer early detection technologies and practices, such as imaging and molecular biomarker approaches.

The group ran two large-scale early detection trials for which data and biospecimens are available for additional research:

The Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial

The Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial was a randomized trial to determine the effects of screening on cancer-related mortality and secondary endpoints in more than 150,000 men and women aged 55 to 74. The screening component of the trial was completed in 2006, but NCI supports continued follow-up of participants in the trial to strengthen PLCO as a valuable resource for molecular epidemiologic research and to provide long-term data on the trial’s primary endpoints, particularly cancer mortality.

Trial data are available to qualified researchers and include demographics, screening data, lifestyle and dietary data, health-risk data, chest x-ray and digital pathology images, and biospecimens. Researchers can request data and explore PLCO publications and approved projects on the Cancer Data Access System.

Requests to access PLCO biospecimens go through the group’s Etiologic and Early Marker Studies (EEMS) program, which administers the PLCO biorepository. The biorepository contains serum, plasma, buffy coat, red blood cell and buccal cell specimens, as well as tumor tissue. EEMS manages receipt and review of research proposals requesting PLCO specimens on a twice-yearly basis. In addition, there is an NIH funding opportunity, PAR 13-036, which also accepts proposals for use of PLCO biospecimens.

The National Lung Screening Trial

The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) was a randomized controlled clinical trial of screening tests for lung cancer. The trial compared two ways of detecting lung cancer—low-dose helical computed tomography (CT) and standard chest x-ray—for their effects on lung cancer death rates in a high-risk population. NLST enrolled approximately 54,000 current or former heavy smokers aged 55 to 74 from 33 sites across the United States. NLST researchers found that participants who received low-dose helical CT scans had a 20% lower risk of dying from lung cancer than participants who received standard chest x-rays. 

Researchers can learn more about NLST, search a database of NLST publications and projects, and request trial data sets and images on the group’s Cancer Data Access System.

Cancer Data Access System

The research group maintains the Cancer Data Access System, a web-based platform for requesting data from PLCO and NLST.