Early Detection & Intervention | NFCR Cancer Research

Early Detection & Intervention Research

What is Early Detection & Intervention?

Early detection and intervention research aims to find improved ways to detect cancer in its earliest stages, identify factors that either raise or lower cancer risk in individuals and groups, and intervene in early-stage cancer treatment at the right time with the right approach.

Significant areas of focus in this field include:

  • Developing and validating new screening tests.
  • Determining optimal screening intervals for recommended exams.
  • Identifying intervention targets like viral causes or lifestyle choices that impact cancer risk.
  • Testing innovative drugs to treat and intervene in early-stage cancers to ensure long-term survival.

By developing and improving screening tests to find and diagnose cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages, scientists are working to reduce overall cancer risk and prevent the disease from developing. We will kill cancers before they kill people.

NFCR's Current Early Detection & Intervention Focus

A little over 2 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in the US in 2024 – 20% of new cancer diagnoses come from cancer survivors. One of NFCR’s current focuses is to conduct more research on early cancer detection and early-stage cancer intervention and treatment. We are supporting a group of leading-edge scientists pioneering and investigating innovative approaches to stop cancers at their early stage, such as stage zero, and to detect them before new cancer happens.

Our goal is to reduce cancer incidences and increase cancer survivors. Through a focus on the detection and eradication of the first cancer cell, we can stop cancer before it starts!


  • NFCR has funded research on biomarkers and imaging techniques to improve early detection of cancer, leading to advances like the discovery of altered methylation patterns in precancerous cells.
  • Through its public education and awareness efforts, NFCR promotes prevention behaviors like healthy eating, exercise, and recommended cancer screenings that can reduce cancer risk and incidence.
  • The Foundation provides funding for chemoprevention research investigating the effectiveness of natural compounds (e.g. antioxidants) and drugs to prevent cancer, furthering the development of risk-reducing options.

NFCR-Supported Researchers Working on Early Detection & Intervention

James P. Basilion, Ph.D.

James P. Basilion, Ph.D.
Case Western Reserve University

Azra Raza, M.D.
Columbia University

Paul Schimmel, Ph.D.
Scripps Research

Learn More About Early Detection & Intervention (Media)

Related Content

Early Detection Tools Saving Time and Saving Lives

A new test can identify a range of cancers in patients with non-specific symptoms. One of the most troubling things about cancer is the time it can take to reach a diagnosis if the symptoms are not clear-cut. While some cancers are easy to identify and test for, some patients spend months battling symptoms such as fatigue and weight loss before the correct tests are ordered. A University of Oxford study recently highlighted a new type of blood test that can detect a range of cancers and whether these cancers have spread (metastasized) in the body. This test will allow patients to access treatment faster.  The study analyzed samples from 300 patients with non-specific but concerning cancer symptoms, such as fatigue and weight loss, to determine whether this new testing method could identify patients with a range of solid tumors from those without cancer. After successfully testing animal models, the researchers were pleased to see that the success was transferable to humans.  Study Results The results show that this test correctly detected cancer in 19 out of every 20 patients and 94% accuracy in identifying metastasis. These results make this test the first technology able to determine the metastatic status of cancer from a simple blood test without prior knowledge of the primary cancer type. Study Impact The ability to detect cancers earlier means patients are more likely to have successful treatment outcomes. This rapid and inexpensive test could help overcome many barriers to the early detection of cancer, especially in patients with non-specific symptoms, which do not direct investigations toward a specific organ and rare cancers. These game-changing findings exhilarate cancer experts across the globe. The high success rates of this study suggest that medical professionals will soon be able to accurately, timely, and cost-effectively diagnose patients with suspected cancer. This development will save patients time, money, and – most importantly – their lives. While these findings are exciting, the tests are not yet widely available. Future studies with larger patient cohorts must further evaluate this technique for the earlier detection of new cancers and potential clinical applications. Accelerating Promising Cancer Research Discoveries like these accelerate medical professionals towards finding a cure for cancers. The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) proudly presents the Salisbury Award Competition, which helps oncology startups accelerate their findings to benefit the cancer community. This program offers a unique opportunity for other promising research deemed high-risk, high-impact ideas, a core value of NFCR.  If you would like to help accelerate cancer research technology and treatment, please make a gift today.  Additional Reads You May Enjoy:  WATCH: How NFCR Plans to Increase Its Impact for Cancer Patients Efficiently Eliminating Metastasized Melanoma Cells Research Highlight: Preventing Breast Cancer Brain Metastasis Stay connected with the cancer community! Receive NFCR’s monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more. Sign up here.

Vitamin-D Rich Foods & Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the United States. However, recent studies suggest there may be an effective way to reduce one’s risk. A team of researchers recently shared their exciting findings showing that eating greater amounts of vitamin D may help against developing colorectal cancer, particularly for those under age 50. The team analyzed data from nearly 95,000 women participating in a long-term study about diet and lifestyle. They found that those with high amounts of vitamin D in their diets—particularly from dairy products—had a 50% lower risk of developing young-onset colorectal cancer than those with lower amounts of the vitamin. Over the past decade, medical professionals have recorded a steady decline in colorectal cancer diagnoses. The decline has been attributed to the availability of effective screening and better adoption of lifestyle changes like healthy eating and exercise. However, that decline does not apply to younger people. In fact, colorectal cancer rates have been rising at an increased rate amongst people under 40.  A Growing Concern Academics and government experts have joined forces to solve the mystery of the rapid increase. However, the puzzle remains unsolved mainly. One of the most likely determinants is diet amongst this age group. The group of experts identified that in addition to not eating enough fruits and vegetables, this age group was deficient in vitamin D.  Further exploring this matter, researchers looked at data broken down between vitamin D absorbed via dietary sources and vitamin D absorbed from a supplement. Shockingly, the results were more favorable among participants who absorbed vitamin D from dietary sources. So, how can vitamin D be added to a diet? Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means that it doesn’t dissolve in water and absorbs better when paired with some kind of fat. Meaning it’s more effective to choose dairy products that aren’t nonfat as the fat in the dairy helps to facilitate the body’s absorption of vitamin D. However, sources other than dairy help the body meet its vitamin D quota.  Salmon Salmon is a popular fatty fish and an excellent source of vitamin D. On average, wild-caught salmon packs 124% of the daily recommended value (DV) per 100 grams. It is important to note that farmed fish often have less vitamin D; however, it still surpasses 25% of the DV on average. Check out a tasty salmon recipe here. Egg Yolks Eggs can hold a significant amount of vitamin D. Still, it can vary greatly depending on sun exposure and the vitamin D content of the chicken feed. When given the same meal, pasture-raised chickens that roam outside in the sunlight produce eggs with levels 3–4 times higher. On average, a typical egg yolk contains 5% of the DV. However, eggs from chickens given vitamin-D-enriched feed may have up to 7 times the DV! Try a tasty recipe to sneak some eggs onto the dinner plate here. Mushrooms Mushrooms are magical fungi that positively impact health in a variety of ways. Excluding fortified foods, mushrooms are the only good non-animal source of vitamin D. Like humans, mushrooms can synthesize […]

New Research Sets Physical Activity Goals for Cancer Prevention

Getting the body moving can be particularly challenging during winter when many parts of the country are under an icy blanket of snow. Undoubtedly it is more comfortable to stay snuggled up on the couch dreaming of spring. However, new research shows that physical activity prevents cancer – and the gold standard is not as unattainable as one might think.  Exercise and Cancer Prevention This 2021 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reviewed the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System results. This system collects self-reported data from individuals 30 years or older collected in all 50 states and Washington D.C. between 2013 and 2016. The study reveals that participating in five or more hours of exercise each week reduced the risk of seven different cancers. The seven cancers linked to physical inactivity include: 17% of stomach cancer cases  12% of endometrial cancer cases  11% of kidney cancer cases  9% of colon cancer cases 8% of esophageal cancer cases 7% of breast cancer cases in women, and  4% of urinary bladder cancers  Simply put, the team discovered that over 46,000 cases of cancer could potentially be avoided per year in the United States if the population met the recommended five hours/week of physical activity. What Kind of Physical Activity Should You Try?  While undertaking any type of physical activity may significantly reduce cancer risk, some types of exercise may be even more effective. A University of Sydney research team assembled to determine which form of exercise is the most effective at preventing cancer. After studying 80,000 adults, the team concluded that strength training is more effective at prolonging life than cardio workouts. The study considered multiple health variables, such as age, health status, and lifestyle. Even when accounting for these factors, the study found that strength training twice a week reduced the likelihood of dying from cancer by 31%. Actually, the overall probability of any kind of premature death decreased by 23%.  Exercise and Immunotherapy Response  Similarly, a 2021 study led by National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)-funded scientist Dr. Rakesh Jain found that exercise training may slow tumor growth and improve outcomes for females with breast cancer – especially those treated with immunotherapy drugs. The team used animal models of breast cancer in this study, which showed physical activity increasing levels of cancer-fighting immune cells. Tumors in mouse models of human breast cancer grew more slowly in mice put through their paces in a structured aerobic exercise program than in sedentary mice. The tumors in exercised mice exhibited an increased anti-tumor immune response. Additionally, the tumors grew more slowly in mice that performed exercise training. Living a Cancer-Preventative Lifestyle Regular exercise can significantly improve one’s overall health concerning cancer, other serious diseases, mental health, and general wellbeing. Many researchers continue to explore how best to reap the benefits of a well-balanced lifestyle, and NFCR is committed to providing free evidence-based guidance in its monthly Cancer-Fighting Lifestyle blog and YouTube Channel.  Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Mushrooms for Cancer Prevention and Mental Wellbeing Genetic Predisposition vs. Healthy Living: Which Impacts Cancer Risk More? 5 Ways Spending More Time Outside Benefits Our Health Stay connected with us! Receive our monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer […]