Understanding the biology of early cancers and pre-cancerous states will allow doctors to find accurate ways to spot the disease earlier and where necessary treat it effectively. It could even enable “precision prevention” – where the disease could be stopped from ever occurring in the first place.
Cancer Research UK is setting out a bold ambition to jump-start this under-explored field of research, collaborating with teams of scientists from across the UK and the US. The International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED) is a partnership between Cancer Research UK, Canary Center at Stanford University, the University of Cambridge, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, UCL (University College of London) and the University of Manchester.
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Now is the time to be ambitious and develop effective new ways to detect cancer earlier. It’s an area of research where we have the potential to completely change the future of cancer treatment, turning it into a manageable and beatable disease for more people.
As part of the Cancer Research UK’s early detection strategy, the charity will invest an essential cash injection of up to £40 million over the next five years into ACED. Stanford University and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute will also significantly invest in the Alliance, taking the total potential contributions to more than £55 million.
According to Professor Sam Gambhir, ACED lead at Stanford University, “Our greatest chances in winning the war against cancer lie in tackling the front-end of the cancer problem and not after cancer is more widespread and heterogeneous.”
The Canary Center at Stanford University expects advances in early detection technologies will help decrease late-stage diagnosis and increase the proportion of people diagnosed at an early and treatable stage, so a future for more patients can be secured.
Some of those advances, for example, are an ongoing clinical trial which combines a new PET imaging tracer with a nasal swab and a blood draw to improve the early detection of lung cancer.
Other projects include mathematical modelling of cancer biomarker levels, early cancer detection nanosensors, smart toilet technology, proximal sampling strategies, new optical and optoacoustic imaging technologies, targeted microbubble ultrasound imaging, immune-diagnostics, longitudinal human studies of the transition from health to disease, as well as many other novel approaches.
Dr Sadik Esener, ACED lead at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, said: “In order to maximize the benefits versus harm associated with early detection, we need to develop precise detection and treatment of early aggressive cancers; this requires close cross disciplinary collaboration across the globe. ACED brings together leading institutions and innovative scientists from around the world ready to dedicate time, energy, and resources to take on this important challenge.”
UK Lead Researchers:
Dr David Crosby, Cancer Research UK’s head of early detection research
Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, ACED lead at the University of Cambridge
UCL ACED centre is led by Professor Mark Emberton
The University of Manchester ACED centre is led by Professors Rob Bristow and Gareth Evans