How far has cancer screening progressed in the last 60 years?

Abcodia, the award winning biomarker validation company with a focus on cancer screening, highlighted some interesting data in its latest newsletter which I thought I would share here. It published fascinating figures about research growth in cancer screening from 1952 – 2012, and the most studied diseases, following a search of the PubMed website by COO Chris Hodkinson. This is what he discovered:

A search for cancer screening across all citations up until 2012 reveals a total of 15,465 citations. The first citations that appear in 1952 relate to Bolen’s test and Brossa’s test.

Brossa’s test is just one of many that go back early cancer screening research of the 1930’s and have since ‘disappeared’. You may find this review that D L Woodhouse of the Cancer Research Laboratories at Birmingham University published in 1940 an interesting read.  At the time, he wrote: “In the present stage of cancer therapeutics, the time elapsing between the onset of malignancy and the institution of treatment is a decisive factor influencing the success or failure of the latter. To be able to diagnose cancer unfailingly at an early stage, preferably in the precancerous phase, would be of immense help in combating the disease.”

Since these early days the growth in cancer screening citations has been enormous, in 2012 alone there were over 1,500 citations where the phrase “cancer screening” appears.

The citations were analysed to establish the most common disease studied. Not surprisingly, breast cancer tops the list with over 5,000 separate citations, closely followed by colorectal and cervical cancers with around 4,000 citations each. Surprisingly, lung cancer is only mentioned in around 1,300 citations – given the focus in recent years and the strong links between lung cancer and smoking  one may have expected more.

Interestingly, although ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer have a similar incidence in the UK, the number of citations for ovarian cancer is 800% higher than pancreatic. Perhaps this is due to the treatment options that are currently available for these two diseases.

In 2011 the UK government launched a strategy  which says: “To achieve our ambition that cancer mortality and survival rates should match the best, it will be essential to prevent more cancers developing in the first place and to ensure they are diagnosed while the cancer is at an earlier stage.” They echo the thoughts of D L Woodhouse back in 1940.

Abcodia is passionate about improving early cancer diagnostics by working collaboratively with its global partners in biomarker validation. Crucially, there are still no approved biomarkers for lung cancer and breast cancer which are desperately needed to save lives.

*Congratulations to Abcodia’s chairman, Dr Andy Richards, who was presented with the distinguished BioIndustry Association (BIA) Lifetime Achievement Award for being a true leader in the UK bioscience sector.
Dr Richards, a bioscience entrepreneur and angel investor, joined Abcodia as chairman in March 2011, shortly after the company was formed, to support its financing.

Last December, Abcodia  swept the board at the Startups Awards 2012 by scooping three top prizes, as well as being honoured as the overall ‘NatWest Startups Business of the Year’, for its pioneering work in cancer screening. Abcodia won every award that it was shortlisted for – ‘Angel or VC-backed Business of the Year’, ‘Innovative Business of the Year’, and ‘Business Woman of the Year’ for its CEO Dr Julie Barnes. Abcodia, an innovative world leader in biomarker validation for cancer screening, has exclusive IP commercialisation rights to a biobank created by researchers at UCL with five million serum samples donated by volunteers over a 10 year period.