A new age of cancer research | OHSU Foundation

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The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute has launched the largest program of its kind in the world: the Center for Cancer Early Detection and Research (CEDAR).

Early detection remains one of the largest unmet needs in cancer research — yet we know that when we find and treat cancer earlier, more people live. That’s easy to understand – and many of us know from personal experience the importance of early detection. But we also know that the problem of cancer is difficult and complex.

That’s why our scientists are tackling cancer from multiple angles, simultaneously:

  • Biology research to understand what creates cancer, how it evolves, and who is susceptible
  • Developing new diagnostic procedures, drugs, and therapies
  • Harnessing new technologies
  • An entrepreneurial approach to research, fueled by philanthropy

From the beginning, the Knight Cancer Institute’s concept has been innovative. First, it’s led by a nano-engineer, Sadik Esener, Ph.D., who believes in harnessing technology to bring about the change we want to see in cancer research. And he has the experience to lead that effort.

Since arriving at OHSU last summer, Esener has already developed a research roadmap that will guide recruitment and leverage research across disciplines to advance the fight against cancer.

Second, this cancer research will be empowered to work much more rapidly than traditional research labs. When traditional labs develop ideas for research, much of their time is spent chasing money – writing grant proposals to allow them to assemble the teams required to do the work.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, our scientific teams will be funded differently. Researchers will be able to present project ideas for direct funding. Projects will be evaluated regularly for progress and scientific impact, ensuring continued support for promising research and enabling teams to shift focus quickly if needed.

This doesn’t eliminate grant funding; that is still encouraged and supported. And philanthropy will continue to play a crucial role. But by structuring teams flexibly, so that they can evolve and grow, and by providing funding so that the teams can get right to work, we hope to stimulate more and more ideas, greater collaboration between specialties, and accelerated progress toward the goal of understanding – and beating – cancers.

Already, several high-level recruits have been given offers, to be announced shortly as they accept and join the Knight Cancer Institute. Our collective vision to fight cancer differently is becoming a reality.

In the coming months, we’ll show you how. Follow this blog series for a deeper dive into the science, the experts, and the guiding principles that are shaping this important work to end cancer as we know it.