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National Cancer Research Month: The Quest to Beat Cancer

May 25, 2016

Real Hope Is Sign for National Cancer Research Month

Do you know someone that has been impacted by cancer? The answer is almost always going to be yes. This year alone, an estimated 1.6 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease.

Cancer research is helping to transform and save lives, and the better we understand how to prevent and treat the more than 200 diseases classified as cancer, the closer we are to finding a cure. That is why each May, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) promotes National Cancer Research Month, an effort to raise awareness of the importance of cancer research and the contributions of researchers, physician-scientists, survivors, and patient advocates across the United States who are dedicated to the quest to beat cancer.

At iSpecimen, we understand that a strong supply of well annotated, high-quality human biospecimens is critical to cancer research, but also that scientists are looking for more increasingly complex data and specimen formats and handling. Banked tissue blocks of course are still in demand, but today’s requests span a range, including fresh tissue, matched sets, or live cells, to name a few. Data needs can be expansive, and may include patient demographics, treatment histories, and genomic or molecular data. Particularly in this age of personalized medicine, researchers are discovering that some treatments and therapies will not work for every patient, and need to be tailored toward individual genomes, further driving the need for diversity in specimen selection.

In observance of National Cancer Research Month, we wanted to highlight a few of the studies that were published this month that truly demonstrate the incredible progress being made on the front lines of cancer research, and in particular studies that made use of well characterized human biospecimens and/or data:

  • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, a center recognized by the AACR for their continued support of National Cancer Month, published a study in the journal Cancer Cell that suggested men and women’s genes could lead to strategies for preventing and treating cancers. Differences in the genetics of men and women could affect drug development and researchers discovered eight cancers where there were differences in molecular characteristics strongly associated with men and women developing or dying from the cancers.
  • Neurosurgeons at Washington University in St. Louis, who use lasers to treat brain cancer, have discovered a new technique that breaks down the blood-brain barrier. By doing so, it could potentially lead to new treatment options for patients with the disease. The lasers are able to not only kill the tumor, but also allow for the opportunity to deliver various drugs and therapies that would otherwise not get there. Studying serum samples from enrolled clinical trial patients was critical to understanding these results.
  • The Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK recently released a study in Nature that has been described as a “milestone” moment that could unlock new ways of treating and preventing breast cancer. Researchers found 93 genes that if mutated, will turn normal cells into cancerous ones and believe they now have a ‘near-perfect’ picture of the genetic events that can lead to and cause breast cancer.

The effort to eradicate cancer could go down as the greatest medical conquest in the history of mankind. As with any great battle, progress in cancer research will depend on evolving strategies, unflagging ambition, and the support of many.