Throughout the last two decades, studies based on cancer epidemiology cohorts have helped to better understand the complex etiology of cancer. By providing fundamental insights into key environmental, lifestyle, and genetic determinants of this disease, cohort-based research has contributed evidence to design cancer control measures for groups and populations at risk. In addition, specific follow-up of affected individuals are beginning to generate insights on outcomes and response to therapy in cancer survivors. More recently, the advent of new genotyping, next-generation sequencing and other high-throughput molecular technologies has enhanced the requirement for extremely large numbers to address large-scale gene discovery, to examine interactions between genes, pathways and the environment, or to focus on defined cancer subtypes and special populations. Consequently, the research approach has shifted away from single investigators research to a consortial approach, where multiple cohorts at the international level combine their population infrastructures and interdisciplinary expertise to address investigations not easily approachable by a single cohort or group (http://epi.grants.cancer.gov/Consortia/cohort.html). The establishment of these networks has challenged established paradigms at both academic institutions and funding agencies.
NCI recognizes that CECs are valuable resources that benefit the entire cancer research community. However, the continued support of a comprehensive cohort infrastructure requires careful review to maintain balanced representation and state-of-the art methodology. To this extent, the Epidemiology and Genomic Research Program (EGRP) has sponsored several initiatives to support the establishment and maintenance of cohorts and consortia infrastructures and research (http://epi.grants.cancer.gov/gameon/; http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-11-167.html). The purpose of this forum presentation is to give an overview of current cancer epidemiology cohorts supported by the EGRP and discuss the the opportunities and challenges posed by the evolution of the current model of population-based cohort(s) toward a fully collaborative Cohort Consortium (or “synthetic cohort”) encompassing the complete characterization of participants across the age and ethnicity spectrum at the clinical, molecular and epidemiological level. Topics include the utilization of contemporary approaches (internet/wireless technologies) and real-time feedback for exposure assessment; the assembly of associated high quality biobanks; the incorporation of state-of-the art molecular technologies; the optimization of data harmonization, management and distribution; the enhancement of communication strategies for diffusion and dissemination of results; and the evaluation of the impact of research results on health, lifestyle and clinical practices Access and informed consent models to make data available to a wider community of interested investigators for integrative analyses of increasing complexity as well as publication policies will also be discussed.
Citation Format: Daniela Seminara. Cancer epidemiology consortia and international cohorts: Challenges and opportunities. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research; 2012 Oct 16-19; Anaheim, CA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Prev Res 2012;5(11 Suppl):Abstract nr FO03-01.