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International alliance sets bold research ambition to detect the (almost) undetectable

Together with collaborators in the U.S. and U.K., the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute launches new alliance solely focused on the early detection of cancer
ACED illustration
Today, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, together with collaborators across the U.S. and the U.K., announced the formation of the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection, or ACED.

Developing radical new strategies and technologies to detect cancer at its earliest stage is the bold ambition of a new transatlantic research alliance, announced today by OHSU and its collaborators.  

Early detection is essential to help more people beat cancer – a patient’s chance of surviving their disease improves dramatically when cancer is found and treated earlier. For example, data from the American Cancer Society shows that 99% of breast cancer patients survive their disease for five years or more if it is diagnosed early, compared with just 27% when it is diagnosed at the latest stage.

Today, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, together with collaborators across the U.S. and the U.K., announced the formation of the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection, or ACED. This new alliance is formed by the coordinated efforts of Cancer Research UK, Canary Center at Stanford University, the University of Cambridge, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, University College London (UCL) and the University of Manchester.

ACED scientists will collaborate to translate research into realistic ways to improve cancer diagnosis that can be implemented into health systems. The partners will engage with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to ensure discoveries can achieve economies of scale and reach patients as soon as possible.

Sadik Esener, Ph.D.
Sadik Esener, Ph.D.

“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,” says Sadik Esener, Ph.D., director of the Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research (CEDAR) Center at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. “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.”

Bree Mitchell, Ph.D.
Bree Mitchell, Ph.D.

“At CEDAR, we look at problems from different angles to seek solutions to cancer’s biggest challenges,” says Bree Mitchell, Ph.D., executive director of CEDAR. “The organizations that comprise ACED share that bold and inventive spirit. Leveraging the expertise at the different centers will help us move our mission forward more quickly.”

Potential areas of research include:

  • Developing new improved imaging techniques and robotics to detect early tumors and pre-cancerous lesions
  • Increasing understanding of how the environment surrounding a tumor influences cancer development
  • Developing less invasive and simpler detection techniques such as blood, breath and urine tests, which can monitor patients who are at a higher risk of certain cancers
  • Searching for early stress signals sent out from tumors or surrounding damaged tissue as a new indication of cancer
  • Looking for early signs of cancer in surrounding tissue and fluids to help diagnose hard to reach tumors
  • Harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence and big data to look for signs of cancer that are undetectable to humans

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, says: “Now is the time to be ambitious and develop effective 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.”

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