May is National Cancer Research Month, which recognizes the importance of cancer research and the contributions of researchers, physician-scientists, survivors, and patient advocates in the quest to conquer cancer. The heroic effort does not wane on May 31, however: research and development of new diagnostics and treatments – and the ultimate quest for a cure – are 24/7/365 concerns. Science never sleeps.
The enemy at hand is formidable: worldwide cancer cases are projected to increase from 14 million in 2012 to 21 million in 2030, according the American Cancer Society. Cancer deaths are projected to rise from 8 million in 2012 to 13 million in 2030. An estimated 1.7 million new cancer cases were projected to be diagnosed last year in the United States alone, and nearly 600,000 people were projected to die from the disease.
Precision medicine is surging as a promising anticancer strategy, and so is precision research. Thus, researchers demand more biospecimens of greater specificity than ever. Cancer scientists today may need fresh tissue or archived tissue. They may need simple data, such as specimen analyte and range, or complex data such as patient demographics, treatment history, or genomic information. They may need matched sets of different tissue types, including biofluids, solid tissue, and cells from the same donor patients. Even details such as cell count may be specified in a cancer specimen request today.
Biospecimen providers must rise to the occasion and meet the needs of proliferating research requests. The infographic below illustrates the evolution of cancer biospecimens, showing the level of specificity available today to conduct oncology research.
As oncology research continues to evolve, it’s crucial to provide researchers rapid access to the specimens they need from the patients they want. We wish them great success not only in May, but throughout their careers that touch the lives of so many patients in great need.