Every year, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) organizes “World Cancer Day,” an event designed to raise awareness about cancer and bring together researchers and physicians who are working to combat the burden of cancer worldwide. This year’s program coincided with the release of a new report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the findings included in the report are nothing less than staggering:
- As a single entity, cancer is the biggest cause of mortality worldwide. There were an estimated 8.2 million deaths from cancer in 2012.
- Global cancer incidence over four years increased by 11% to an estimated 14.1 million cases in 2012.
- Cancer cases worldwide are forecast to rise by 75% and reach close to 25 million over the next two decades.
According to Cary Adams, CEO of UICC, “The new figures from IARC show that the incidence of cancer globally will continue to grow unless we recognize the threat and act on it now.”
As we all know, research is the cornerstone of global programs to combat cancer. Not only is collaboration between universities, hospitals, biotechnology firms and pharmaceutical companies critical for the development of new vaccinations, screening technologies and treatments for various types of cancer; but all of these stakeholders must work together to ensure new treatments are affordable to people living in third-world countries where the burden of cancer is the highest. Franco Cavalli, former president of UICC, underscored this point in an interview with the European Society of Medical Oncology.
“We need new models in order to have efficacious treatment but not treatment that cost a fortune a year per patient, which is becoming impossible to finance, even for the richest countries,” he said.
What role does biobanking play in all this?
An essential one.
Biobanks allow researchers to analyze cancerous tissue, healthy controls and associated clinical parameters in a single experiment. Then, sophisticated analysis of the enormous amount of data generated gives scientists the power to detect small changes in a sea of unrelated noise. As we’ve discussed in earlier blog posts, recent genomics experiments are significantly impacting our understanding of diseases like prostate cancer, sarcoma and malignant melanoma.
The European Institute of Oncology (IEO) is another organization using the latest biobanking technology to make an active contribution in the fight against cancer. Based in Milan, Italy, the IEO processes more than 4,000 biospecimens annually to research breast, lung, prostate and bowel cancers. The IEO uses a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to manage all biospecimen data across multiple platforms, eliminating the need to manually combine data from repositories of demographic information, consent records and pathological results. Sophisticated data management like this is now a prerequisite for process improvement and greater efficiency, and the automation and integration capabilities of LIMS enable organizations such as the IEO to be as agile as possible.