Lack of biospecimens a mounting road block to progress in cancer research
Overcoming the considerable challenges surrounding biospecimens, which provide the raw materials for cutting-edge cancer research, was foremost on the agenda for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director's Consumer Liaison Group (DCLG) when it met in Seattle, Wash., last week.
The shortage of high-quality, well-documented samples of human biospecimens, such as tumor samples, blood, or DNA, is one of the largest barriers to progress in cancer research. The DCLG, a federal advisory committee comprised of leaders in the cancer advocacy community, was enlisted to provide a non-scientific perspective during a three-day conference.
Perspectives of external stakeholders—from academia to industry and patient advocates—informed the discussion. DCLG members identified roles various groups can play to address challenges around biospecimen quality and process standardization and discussed ways that the NCI can best leverage the community's resources to overcome key barriers.
Human biospecimens are fundamental to the research that advances the understanding of cancer at a molecular level and that drives genetically informed (personalized) medicine. The absence of these essential ingredients for progress is growing as a top concern throughout the research community and is catching the attention of policymakers. In a recent report, the AACR-FDA-NCI Cancer Biomarkers Collaborative, a large partnership of experts and stakeholders established by the AACR to accelerate the translation of cancer therapeutics into the clinic, identified the absence of high-quality biospecimens as one of the most significant roadblocks to developing and validating biomarkers, molecular markers that play a key role in the development of targeted cancer therapies.
The DCLG will reconvene in October to meet with new NCI Director Harold Varmus to discuss the strategic role the group can play in tackling other challenges facing the institute.
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