Jun 04

What Scientific Questions Should Cancer Epidemiology Address in the Next Decade to Impact Public Health?

Trends in 21st Century Epidemiology: From Scientific Discoveries to Population Health Impact on December 12-13, 2012


The Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program (EGRP) has initiated a strategic planning effort to develop scientific priorities for cancer epidemiology research in the next decade in the midst of a period of great scientific opportunity and resource constraints. EGRP would like to engage the research community and other stakeholders in a planning effort that will include a workshop in December 2012 to help shape new foci for cancer epidemiology research.

image of two people having a conversation related to cancer researchTo facilitate this process, we invite the research community to join in an ongoing Web-based conversation to develop priorities and the next generation of high-impact studies. A recent commentary published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention summarizes our efforts.

Success Stories From 20th Century Cancer Epidemiology

Cancer epidemiology has led to many success stories that have improved policy and practice. These include, among others, the unraveling of cigarette smoking as a cause of lung and many different types of cancer, the role of HPV in cervical and other cancers, and the discovery of hundreds of genetic loci as risk factors for various types of cancer.

Future Opportunities and Challenges

We are now at a major crossroad in our understanding of cancer. Tools of molecular biology, genomics, and other high throughput “omic” technologies are increasingly integrated into epidemiologic investigations.

In addition, we are able to increasingly take social, behavioral, and environmental measurements at the individual, community, and health system levels. Moreover, research is increasingly supported by advances in bioinformatics and information technology, allowing us to collect, analyze, and synthesize information from multiple disciplines at an ever increasing pace.

With these opportunities, however, come the major challenge of dealing with the data deluge and uncovering true causal relationships from the millions and millions of observations that are background noise. Thus, we now confront important challenges and must make choices about the scientific direction in order to maximize the use of existing research infrastructures and plan wisely for new ones in the face of working to fund cancer epidemiology studies and respond to changing resources.

EGRP Invites Your Feedback

We would like the research community to contribute their thoughts on several areas which we will introduce throughout the summer.

This week, we ask the following fundamental question:

  • What are the major scientific questions that cancer epidemiology should address in the next decade to impact public health?

Please use the comment section below to share your perspectives.  We encourage you to be as specific as possible in your reply. You can use or be inspired by the NCI Provocative Questions exercise.  Comments provided through our blog will be used to shape the workshop discussion in December.  Ultimately, we will all benefit from a vibrant dialogue that will help shape the future of cancer epidemiology in the next decade.


Photo of Muin KhouryMuin J. Khoury, M.D., Ph.D., serves as Acting Associate Director, Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program (EGRP), in NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS). Since 2007, Dr. Khoury has served NCI as a Senior Consultant in Public Health Genomics. He has helped integrate public health genomics research into the Division’s research portfolio, such as comparative effectiveness research in genomics and personalized medicine.  Dr. Khoury is also the founding Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office of Public Health Genomics.

Dr. Khoury received his B.S. degree in Biology/Chemistry from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, and his medical degree and pediatrics training from the same institution. He received a Ph.D. in Human Genetics/Genetic Epidemiology and training in medical genetics from The Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Khoury is board certified in medical genetics and is internationally recognized for his expertise in genetic epidemiology and public health genomics.


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