Cancer Epidemiology Cohorts


Cohort studies are one of the fundamental designs for epidemiological research. Throughout the last two decades, cohort-based studies have helped researchers to better understand the complex etiology of cancer, and have provided fundamental insights into key environmental, lifestyle, clinical, and genetic determinants of this disease and its outcomes.

Findings from cancer epidemiology cohorts (CECs) are critical in many areas of transdisciplinary and translational research. CECs fall primarily within two categories. Cancer risk cohorts are longitudinal observational studies of healthy individuals, usually representative of a given population, which are followed up until disease occurrence and evaluated for a range of risk factors pertinent to cancer. These cohorts provide key evidence for the development of risk prediction analyses and models, prevention strategies, and guidelines.

Evidence generated by cancer survivor cohorts can provide information on the influence of genetic, clinical, environmental, and lifestyle factors on cancer survivorship. Such cohorts can aid in the design and testing of many therapeutic and health policy interventions. Large biorepositories established by these cohorts already support genomic and epigenetic studies, and are beginning to support proteomic and metabolomic studies.

More recently, many CECs, through cancer epidemiology research consortia, have become essential to support genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that have identified cancer susceptibility alleles of low penetrance and high frequency in human populations, as well as genomic determinants of response to treatment.

As new genomic regions are identified and their functions clarified, the accumulation of both retrospective and prospective exposure data afford opportunities for in-depth analyses of gene-environment interactions. Additionally, patient cohorts can provide the study populations and biospecimens needed as newer genomic technologies emerge to better examine determinants of clinical, genomic, and lifestyle factors of cancer prognosis and survival.

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Funding Opportunities

NCI is currently sponsoring the following Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to support the Cancer Epidemiology Cohort infrastructure:

Core Infrastructure and Methodological Research for Cancer Epidemiology - expires March 11, 2017:

Application for membership in the NCI Cohort Consortium is strongly encouraged because it is the main NCI-sponsored consortium implementing cross-cohort collaborative projects.

Research projects relying on cancer epidemiology cohort infrastructures are NOT appropriate for the above FOA. Such projects are expected to seek support through appropriate research project mechanisms (such as investigator-initiated Research Project Grant (R01) and Research Program Project (P01) mechanisms). Learn about other funding opportunities.

Limited meeting support is available to cohorts that participate in cancer epidemiology research consortia.

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Funded Projects

View a list of EGRP-supported cancer epidemiology cohorts, with links to their abstracts and publications.External Web Site Policy

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Research Resources

Several EGRP-funded cohorts have research resources available to investigators, including:

NCI's intramural Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) has made available its Nested Cohort software packageExternal Web Site Policy for fitting Kaplan-Meier and Cox Models to estimate standardized survival and attributable risks for studies where covariates of interest are observed on only a sample of the cohort. Standard designs that can be handled by this software include the case-cohort and case-control studies conducted within defined cohorts. At this time, the software does not yet support nested case-control designs.

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