In the UK, cancer is diagnosed every two minutes. Unfortunately, for many, it occurs when the patient is symptomatic, the disease is well established, possibly already spreading to several parts of the body. Treatment is less effective because a later cancer is detected — meaning that survival is also reduced in patients diagnosed at a later stage.
We recently spoke with Dr. David Crosby, Head of Research and Innovation, to learn more about the importance of early detection of cancer. The scientist touches on modern approaches to early detection and related problems, he also discusses the efforts of cooperation between the scientific community and industry. He told us about the launch of their Research Committee on Early Detection of Cancer.
Why early cancer detection is so important.
We know that the likelihood of survival increases significantly for most groups of patients if cancer is detected at the initial stage. Early detection studies are considered a key part of reaching the program of 3 out of 4 patients who survived the disease by 2034. By focusing on progress in this area, we hope to make progress and improve patient outcomes. Identifying new ways should go hand in hand with a better understanding of the biology of early cancer and what determines the deadly disease. This, in turn, will help the patient to get information on how to treat cancer and early use of existing methods of treatment.
Existing breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening programs have saved many lives, but they lack sensitivity, which means some cases have been missed, and poor specificity can lead to unnecessary invasive procedures. Research is needed in order to improve the biological understanding of early types of disease, increase their ability to detect and modernize the technologies used. High-quality cancer screening tests are currently being conducted in several locations in the UK and around the world. However, progress in this area is based on combining these centers of experience to form a cohesive international research area that spans many disciplines. At CRUK, we recognize the need to create an early detection community, and we support the development of the industry in several ways.
New Approach to Cancer Research
Scientist David Crosby also spoke about new approaches to the treatment of this malady: “We created a new committee to identify the disease at an early stage and launched funding schemes to provide much-needed dedicated support for this area. Our early project to identify this disease, organized jointly with the Institute OHSU and the Canary Center at Stanford, whose results were held in Portland in October of this year, will also help unite this area internationally. "
We need to improve our understanding of the biology of early cancers, the precancerous conditions, and the indicators that they can manifest. It is also necessary to develop innovative tools that detect cancer with high sensitivity and specificity. To achieve this, it is necessary to combine knowledge from many different areas of research at the present time in order to move in new directions. This means the participation of specialists outside the traditional areas of cancer biology, such as engineering, physics and computer science.
“By combining these scientists, we hope to encourage the use of new approaches and cancer research methods. We actively promote interdisciplinary collaboration through our funding schemes and organize events with other organizations, such as the Council for Research in Research and Research in the Physical Sciences (EPSRC), for creating a collaborative network and urge everyone to consider their work in the context of cancer detection, ”added David.
Another key element in early detection success is the sharing of resources, such as biobanks, data and technology. It is necessary to work to achieve this by creating an early detection community. Efforts on it will be successful only with the active participation of industry. The committee and the research organization are considering developing a new diagnostic tool. However, the path from a tester to successful development is an unfamiliar territory for many scientists, and the industry will play a key role in bridging this gap.
Industry experts are needed to share their knowledge and experience on what is needed for promotion. At the moment, general work between scientists and industry at the earliest stages of research development is being encouraged. Academic and sectoral collaboration will ensure the exchange of knowledge, technology and biological information to increase the chances of success in broadcasting.
The role of technology in determining cancer
Some progress in identifying signs of early cancer has already been made, leading to the launch of population programs, such as screening for cervical, breast and intestinal cancers. However, these measures cover only a limited number of cancer types, and a large number of cancer patients are still diagnosed by a common method. The sensitivity of these technologies is currently insufficient to regularly catch the earliest cases. Now we need to focus on the development of new programs and tests with clinical assistance; this is a serious problem for this area.
Samples available for cancer signature research are mainly from patients with established disease (not to malignant or early disease). This means that for the initial disease there are very few quantitative markers, which creates the need for highly sensitive and specific detection technology or sufficient resolution of image processing to detect damage or anomalies, while avoiding false positives and diagnosis.
Recently, there has been a surge in the popularity of potential types of early detection indicators, such as circulating tumor cells, cell-free DNA, exosomes, micro RNA, antibodies and leukocyte signatures, as well as great technological advances (visualization and sequence). Although researchers say that it is too early to use everything.
Historically, most of the work on cancer analyzes has focused on the established disease, since many cases of the disease have been identified at a later stage. These studies confirmed the development of therapeutic agents, but did not reveal the biology underlying the changes that occur in the initial (and pre) stage.
The timing of early detection testing can be long, and the price point for diagnostics is relatively low, which hampers industry activities.
Now science is at a critical point where technological advances and biological understanding are at the stage at which it is possible to shift attention to the early stage of the disease and solve problems associated with the initial detection of cancer.