Directory of on-going research in cancer prevention


Directory of on-going research in cancer prevention

Dear Sir,

The “Directory of on-going research in cancer prevention” on the internet ( has been produced as a unique source of information on current work in areas of primary cancer prevention, chemoprevention and screening to serve the information needs of the targeted audience consisting of scientists, clinicians, public health professionals, policy makers and other interested persons (Sankaranarayanan et al.,1998). The “Directory” will soon be published in a CD-ROM version as well. While the already available databases on medical literature have abstracts of completed published studies, the “Directory” lists abstracts of on-going studies, most of which may not yet have been published, to allow documentation in the existing databases. Thus, the “Directory” is complementary to the other available information sources, allowing researchers and other users to be aware of the current cancer prevention research by providing supplementary information. To our knowledge, there is no other publication similar to that of the “Directory.”

The major objectives of the “Directory” are (1) to disseminate edited abstracts of current on-going research projects in the field of cancer prevention in the world to scientists, clinicians, public health professionals, policy makers and other interested persons; (2) to encourage and facilitate interaction among researchers with interest in cancer prevention; (3) to assess the direction and trends in prevention research and to identify and encourage specific areas where further work is needed; and (4) to disseminate information on the existing biological material banks and population-based cancer registries to enhance the utility of these in cancer prevention research.

For the purpose of inclusion in the “Directory,” cancer prevention studies are defined as those intervention projects addressing one or more of the following end-points in humans: (1) a change in the incidence of and/or mortality from cancer; (2) a change in the prevalence of known risk factors of cancer in defined populations, such as tobacco, alcohol drinking, dietary patterns, certain infections, physical activity, exposure to sun, radiation and industrial carcinogens and others; (3) modulation of intermediate end-points thought to be on a causal pathway to human cancers and to be a surrogate marker (not necessarily validated) for cancer incidence and/or mortality; e.g., dysplasia, proliferation/differentiation markers, genetic markers, incidence/frequency of precancerous lesions and others; (4) performance parameters of early detection/screening tests in terms of validity (sensitivity and specificity) and accuracy (predictive value).

In addition, for a project to be included in the “Directory,” evaluation of the effectiveness of the intervention program must be an inherent part of the project. Listings of population-based cancer registries and biological material banks have been included, in view of their potential role in evaluating cancer prevention and control approaches.

The abstracts of cancer prevention studies listed in the “Directory” were obtained by contacting potential contributors with a letter of invitation to participate asking them to provide a brief description of their work. Addresses of these contributors were extracted from various scientific publication databases, annual reports of institutions, lists of participants at meetings, membership lists of scientific associations and from the mailing list maintained for the “Directory of on-going research in cancer epidemiology” (Sankaranarayanan et al.,1996) to construct a mailing list.

On receipt, the abstracts were reviewed for relevance and completeness in terms of objectives of the study, hypotheses, relevant background information, study type and design, characteristics of the study population, details of interventions, end-points studied, methods of data collection and analysis, preliminary results and related interim publications. If necessary, the investigators were contacted again for clarification of the text. Relevant and complete project abstracts were edited, keyworded and entered into the database. Specific keywords were applied, reflecting the study design, major words relevant to the project, cancer site, intervention per se and biomarkers, if any. The information provided for biological material banks was reviewed in terms of complete address of the person responsible, year of initiation of sample collection, number of persons sampled/number of samples stored, storage details, details on personal identifiers, related data and follow-up information, purpose of collection and any special remarks.

Of the 467 potential contributors contacted by mail to report their work, 224 responded, reporting 141 projects and information on 58 biological materials banks. Some 50 projects could not be included in the “Directory” because they were outside the defined scope or were already completed. Projects on going in 23 countries (16 developed countries, 2 countries of Eastern Europe and ex-USSR and 5 developing countries) contributed to the 104 abstracts included in the current version of the “Directory.” The most common cancer sites addressed in the reported projects are breast (N = 28), uterine cervix (N = 21) and colon (N = 20). The most common types of study designs reported are randomized trials (N = 66), cohort (N = 27) and descriptive studies (N = 9). The common interventions addressed are mammography (N = 19) and cervical cytology (N = 11). Chemoprevention was addressed in 38 studies. A total of 57 biological materials banks are listed in the “Directory” with details of materials stored by them. Serum or plasma is stored in all BMBs. The other commonly stored materials are white cells (N = 35), red cells (N = 23) and tissues (N = 23). The address and contact details of population-based cancer registries, which are members of the European Network of Cancer Registries (ENCR), and the International Association of Cancer Registries (IACR) are included.

The extent of information given for each project abstract in this “Directory” is variable, although efforts were made to cover key points, such as objectives of the study, design, participant characteristics, details of intervention, end-points and methods of data collection and analysis. We have tried to include clear and concise abstracts of projects satisfying the criteria for inclusion. Several submitted research projects could not be included because they fell outside the scope of the “Directory.” However, it is quite clear that not all on-going human cancer prevention projects (within the purview of our definition) have been included in the current version of the “Directory.” Some current projects may not be found, either because the investigators did not reply to our invitation, or because the abstract was grossly incomplete and uninformative and therefore not retained, or again because our address list was not complete and some potential contributors were therefore not invited.

The purpose of this communication is to draw the attention of all researchers in cancer prevention to the existence of the “Directory” and to encourage them to contribute to it, if they have a relevant on-going project satisfying our inclusion criteria. Abstract forms can be obtained from Mrs E. Démaret, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 150 cours Albert Thomas, 69372 Lyon cedex 08, France or can be downloaded from our website Thus, we invite scientists working in the field of cancer prevention (both current contributors, those who did not report to this first edition of the “Directory” and those we could not contact) to submit their projects on a current basis. These efforts will help the future editions of the “Directory” to cover the vast majority of on-going research in cancer prevention and to keep the “Directory” up-to-date, thus fulfilling its objectives.


This project is partly supported by the “Europe Against Cancer” Program of the European Commission.

R. Sankaranarayanan Sankar*, E. Demaret*, N. Becker†, J. Wahrendorf†