Stopping Cancer Early – The Best Possible Investment


Early Cancer Detection Update for National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Health

November 29, 2012

The National Cancer Institute, under the National Institute of Health, plays a crucial role in cancer research throughout the United States. As the nation’s “investment in cancer,” NCI has quite a bit of ground to cover.  NCI’s annual budget is approximately $5 billion. In 2010, 7% of NCI’s budget was allocated to the Division of Cancer Prevention. The Early Detection Research Group is one of ten groups in this division, and the Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) is one of the division’s six major projects. This means that early detection research is receiving a fraction of that 7% budget.

Although early detection may not be their top focus, NCI has moved to make a more substantial investment in early detection research and technology, and is making headway in this area.  Additionally, NCI has collaborated with Canary Foundation on early detection projects.

NCI started EDRN to bring together multiple institutions working on early detection research. Early detection has many facets and therefore requires the work of leaders from many fields. By working together, different institutions can more effectively facilitate advances in early detection science and translate these advances into clinical practice. Canary Foundation operates in this same way, organizing multi-institutional studies and moving studies towards clinical practice.

The NCI has also developed accelerated programs called SPORES, or Specialized Programs of Research Excellence. SPORE studies are set up to be short-term (five years or less) and high-impact where they can translate quickly to clinical use and improve the lives of humans. Their objective is to reduce cancer incidence and mortality, while seeking to better the quality of life for cancer patients. Several of Canary Foundation’s programs and researchers are involved in important SPORE work including our Ovarian and Prostate Cancer Programs.

The EDRN and Canary have partnered for two major projects. The first involves joint funding for lung cancer biomarker discovery in people that have never smoked. This project involves multiple investigators assessing the same set of cell-lines, tissues and blood samples using different techniques. There are some promising targets to come out of this research and the group is working on a plan for validation. The second project is the Canary Prostate Active Surveillance Study (PASS). EDRN partners with Canary to provide the data management and statistical support for the clinical trial. There is a large amount of infrastructure required to collect and store data for a clinical trial. Using the EDRN infrastructure rather than building or buying a system has been a huge saver of funds and time that Canary would have needed to otherwise provide for the trial.

Though much more is needed, these steps highlight the investment the NCI has been making in cancer early detection. Canary Foundation values the partnered work with the NCI, having benefited from and contributed to the NCI’s and EDRN’s goal of gathering information from multi-centers, matching Canary’s goal to create cross-institutional studies and advancing a mission to find cancer early, when small and before it has spread.