Review article looks at the importance and challenges of early detection of cancer

A leading group of cancer early detection researchers from the UK and the US have written a review article which looks at the importance of cancer early detection and the main challenges that need to be overcome to better understand the early events in tumorigenesis that are detectable in screening tests.

When cancer is detected at the earliest stages, treatment is more effective and survival drastically improves. Yet ~50% of cancers are still only detected at an advanced stage. Improved earlier detection of cancer could substantially increase survival rates. Although recent advances in early detection have saved lives, further innovations and development of early cancer detection approaches are needed. The field is evolving rapidly, owing to advances in biological understanding and an increasing pace of technological progress.

The review states that: "For early detection to deliver transformative progress in cancer survival, wider skill sets beyond cancer biology are essential, including engineers, chemists, physicists, technology developers, and behavioral and computer scientists. Integrated, interdisciplinary collaboration is key to bringing new ideas to address the challenges of early cancer detection. We believe that early detection of cancer is approaching a tipping point, as biological insight and technological capacity are increasing at an unprecedented rate and as public and private funders of research are increasingly willing to invest. This Review discusses the current state of the field and suggests constructive ways forward that build on current progress to deliver effective earlier detection of cancer and appropriate intervention."

The review concludes that: "Early detection of cancer has the potential to transform patient survival and is increasingly recognized as an area of unmet need by the public, patients, policy-makers, and research funders. A sustained effort will be required to find practical, long-term solutions for many of the challenges we have described in this Review. We have suggested a framework that we believe will meaningfully accelerate progress. Several contextual issues must also be carefully considered to maximize the translation of early detection research into clinical impact."

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