Cancer research is continually progressing. With each clinical trial and research study, our understanding in the evolving world of cancer gets closer to novel prevention, screening, and treatment methods.
With improved treatment methods comes improved patient outcomes.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States, is at the forefront of accelerating science to reduce the cancer burden in the United States and globally.
This past spring, Dr. Ned Sharpless, the director of the NCI released key focus areas that he would like to target to advance cancer research, which include:
- Training and development of the workforce
- Renewed commitment to basic science
- Catalyzing big data science
- Clinical Trials
While this is not an exhaustive list, Dr. Sharpless’ four focus areas as the director of the NCI provide direction to progress our knowledge in the field of cancer care. In conjunction, Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) is tackling these areas of opportunity. Here are just a few exciting ways we are dedicated to progressing the science behind colorectal cancer (CRC).
Training and Development of the Workforce
The first focus area places an emphasis on training researchers to become adept in topics that could have significant outcomes for patients as research progresses. These topics include immunology, data sciences, statistics, and population sciences to address health disparities.
This priority ensures there is “a workforce ready to tackle the accelerating pace of discovery.”
As the leading research advocacy organization for colon and rectal cancers, Fight CRC collaborates with skilled scientists and clinicians, but also trains and supports patient advocates to be up-to-date on necessary topic areas.
Through Fight CRC’s Research Advocacy Training and Support (RATS) program, research advocates learn about the science from bench to bedside, understanding that their voice resonates to represent the collective patient perspective. Those that have been trained through the RATS program sit on panels such as the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Defense .
In alignment with Dr. Sharpless’ key focus areas, we believe that educated patient advocates are the most powerful advocates and through their loud voice and extensive knowledge, they contribute to the workforce ready to tackle rapidly advancing discoveries.
Renewed Commitment to Basic Science
To understand what implications this priority has on the progression of cancer research, it’s important to understand what basic research encompasses and how this knowledge can contribute to the field.
According to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, ”basic science seeks solutions to the critical problems that apply to fundamental aspects of genetics, molecular biology, cell and developmental biology, and tissue regulation.” By taking a bottom-up, investigator-driven approach, we can better understand pieces of the puzzle leading to the bigger picture in cancer research.
Fight CRC funds researchers aiming to understand the fundamental components of colorectal cancer and the basic biological mechanisms that can contribute to cancer, leading to improved knowledge and treatment options.
Last year, Fight CRC and the Cancer Research Institute together funded $400,000 to Dr. Cindy Sears’ research investigating the gut microbiome. Preliminary findings are very promising and indicate that biofilms may play a role in the development of CRC.
Catalyzing Big-Data Science
Big data in science is defined as a large amount of data that is gathered to depict trends and patterns. Big data can guide research, inform precision treatment decisions, and link healthcare information including pathology, clinical data, and genomic information together.
Fight CRC recognizes the power of big data and convenes researchers and scientists at the heart of catalyzing these data sets to discuss how this information can guide future clinical trials and precision medicine.
Working together with our health science partners, Fight CRC uses real-life data to advocate and inform educational campaigns and research around biomarker testing and uptake, leading to better testing, surveillance ,and treatment options for CRC patients.
These data trends show tangible and real time results that have not been available before. Big data allows information to be translated to actionable steps expanding our knowledge in cancer research, impacting those who stand to benefit the most, patients. This type of data continually informs the content and development of our patient education resources such as Your Guide in the Fight.
Recently, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) highlighted major barriers for patients to enter clinical trials. With factors such as low accrual rates, difficulty finding applicable trials, and high cost, it’s no wonder only the highest estimates of people participating in clinical trials is 8% in both community cancer centers and NCI designated centers.
Fight CRC recognizes these barriers and the need to address them so patients have better options. Fight CRC’s patient curated Late Stage MSS Trial Finder decreases patient barriers and prioritizes trials for late stage MSS CRC patients that have the highest potential benefit and the lowest chance of failure in one navigable area.
By making it easier for patients to identify, enroll, and participate in clinical trials, cancer research can progress much quicker, leading to better treatment options and outcomes for all those affected by colorectal cancer.
While there is still much to accomplish in the world of cancer research, prioritizing actionable steps will lead to increased scientific knowledge and improved patient outcomes.
According to Dr. Ned Sharpless, “we owe it to patients to make progress against all cancers, not just the more common or easier-to-manage types.”
Fight CRC recognizes that colorectal cancer patients face a unique set of challenges, and it will take dedication and collaboration to tackle these big research questions. By prioritizing initiatives including immunotherapy, the Fight CRC Late Stage MSS clinical trial finder, survivorship care, and early-age onset CRC to name a few, we will stay at the forefront of progressing research.
Science has moved incredibly fast in the last decade, and will continue to progress with investment from researchers and patients alike. Patients, caregivers, and CRC champions can be assured that Fight CRC will continue to address these areas in alignment with Dr. Sharpless’ vision to support cancer research and accelerate the state of the science.
“Collaborating with cancer research advocates is critical to advancing scientific discovery,” says Amy Williams, Director of NCI’s Office of Advocacy Relations (OAR). “We look forward to exploring these key focus areas with Fight CRC and continuing to ensure the collective patient perspective is integrated into NCI programs.”
Your donation supports tools such as Fight CRC’s Clinical Trial Finder.