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Cancer Research UK joins OHSU in collaboration to improve early detection of cancer

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by Cancer Research UK | News

15 December 2015

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Cancer Research UK, the second largest funder of cancer research globally, and the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, a leader in precision cancer medicine, have formed an international collaboration to accelerate research in the early detection of cancer.

“We’re proud to be partnering with the Knight Cancer Institute on this important area of cancer research. Focusing on early diagnosis will help us achieve our ambition of three in four people surviving cancer in 20 years.” – Dr Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK

The goal of this unique transatlantic agreement is to fill the urgent need for better methods to find lethal cancers as they are forming so that they can be treated more effectively. A patient’s chance of survival increases significantly if the disease is diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

The collaboration also seeks to accelerate progress by identifying and tackling the barriers scientists, including:

  • A lack of research models for the earliest stages of the disease
  • A shortage of tissue samples available for research, especially samples from higher risk patients
  • Limited funding for this type of research
  • The need for a better understanding of the biology of early cancer and appropriate technologies to detect its features.

The collaboration will host an annual international conference series with participants that will include current leaders in early detection as well as top scientists and thought leaders in other aspects of cancer research and bioengineering that are relevant to advancing the field. In 2016, the conference will be entitled Cancer Research UK and OHSU Knight Cancer Institute present the Sondland-Durant Early Detection of Cancer Conference in recognition of  generous support from the Gordon D. Sondland and Katherine J. Durant Foundation.

The conference series will enable Cancer Research UK and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to develop a global network of experts dedicated to collaboratively accelerating discovery.

Iain Foulkes, Ph.D., executive director for research funding at Cancer Research UK, said: “Focusing on early diagnosis will help us achieve our ambition of three in four people surviving cancer in 20 years. But to make progress we need more research into the biology of early disease, we need new model systems, new technologies and new development pathways for diagnostics. We’re proud to be partnering with the Knight Cancer Institute on this important area of cancer research.”

Cancer Research UK’s alliance with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is part of a long-term commitment to invest in early detection research, to understand the biology behind early stage cancers, find new detection and screening methods and enhance uptake and accuracy of screening. Cancer Research UK invests about £330 million ($500 million) every year into research across all cancer types and the full research continuum. The range and breadth of expertise and infrastructure in its portfolio, as well as close links with the UK’s National Health Service, mean the charity is ideally placed to take a lead in this area in the UK.

The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute also is deeply committed to this area of cancer research. In June 2015 it announced that it had raised £660 million ($1 billion) to support its vision to realize the full potential of precision cancer medicine; central to this plan is transforming how cancers are detected. The funds raised ― which included a £300 million ($500 million) gift from Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny ― have enabled the institute to begin fast-track recruitment of top researchers to join its team and accelerate construction of a research building and cancer clinic space to support its expansion.

Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, said: “The full potential of precision cancer medicine will only be realized when coupled with a sophisticated early detection effort. We need to develop tests that distinguish slow and non-lethal cancers from more dangerous malignancies. We are committed to uniting researchers worldwide and ensuring the next generation of cancer detection becomes a reality.”


For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 0203 469 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.