Announcing the creation of a new DF/HCC Research Program in Cancer Early Detection

May 14, 2018

New Early Detection Program Planning

DF/HCC is pleased to announce the creation of a new research program in cancer early detection. A key focus of this program will be to employ novel, incisive, and collaborative approaches to detecting various forms of cancer as early in their development as possible. Both the Governance and Executive Committees have enthusiastically endorsed creation of the program, which will be the first new program at DF/HCC since the Kidney Cancer and Melanoma programs formed in 2001.

The motivation for the new program includes the realization that one of the greatest opportunities to lower the death rate from cancer is through timely and effective early detection strategies. Indeed, there have been several notable success stories including screening mammography, colonoscopy, and Pap smears. In conjunction with improved treatment, these activities have led to decreases in cancer death in the general population. Despite the opportunity encompassed by effective early detection, we believe that current clinical practice remains limited and does not optimally leverage novel technologies.

DF/HCC researchers have pioneered key elements of early detection science, including applying novel technologies to circulating tumor cells (CTCs), molecular imaging, circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) analysis. Against this backdrop, DF/HCC is poised to create a multi-disciplinary research program to engage useful sample sets and populations, methods and technologies to advance the field through innovation. The new program will aim to provide a platform for investigators to collaborate in the development and use of novel molecular, biological, physical, and data analysis tools to enrich prevention and early detection science in individuals at high risk for cancer or with minimal residual disease.

This new program has emerged as a follow-up to two events held this year to assess DF/HCC communal interest in this field and to discuss areas of focus that might be encompassed by the new program. The meetings, organized by Tim Rebbeck and Karen Cichowski, considered the question, “How can technology drive early cancer detection?” The first featured short, TED-style talks by Guillermo Tearney (in vivo laser capture microdissection), Ben Ebert (clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential), Scott Manalis (single cell measurement), Matthew Meyerson (cell-free DNA technologies) and Franziska Michor (tumor evolution models). A panel moderated by David Livingston further considered the application of novel technologies to clinical problems, with contributions by Daniel Haber, Lecia Sequist, Brian Wolpin, Kim Stegmaier, Manuel Hidalgo and many others.

Work is underway to identify program leadership, coalesce working groups on subtopics of emphasis, and organize a day-long planning retreat in the fall to galvanize membership and set the research agenda for the new program, recognizing that novel inter-disciplinary, interinstitutional research will be required for success.

If you would like to be involved in this new program, please contact Deborah Goff (deborah_goff@dfci.harvard.edu).