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Stimulating Data-driven Innovation in Breast Cancer Research

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) aims to help researchers better understand the genetic components of breast cancer by launching a new prize competition called “Up for a Challenge (U4C)—Stimulating Innovation in Breast Cancer Genetic Epidemiology.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. An estimated 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed among women (2,350 in men) in the United States during 2015, with an estimated 40,730 deaths (According to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program).

Research suggests that genetic factors play a key role in determining who is at increased risk of developing breast cancer, as well as the type of breast cancer they develop. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which compare the genome of healthy individuals to those affected with breast cancer, have helped to identify more than 90 common genetic variations that are associated with breast cancer risk. Although GWAS have greatly enhanced our understanding of the genetic component of breast cancer susceptibility, the results to date explain only a small portion of the estimated genetic contribution to breast cancer risk.

NCI, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), wants to increase the number and diversity of minds tackling this problem.  They teamed up with SAGE Bionetworks, to inspire novel cross-disciplinary approaches to more fully decipher the genomic basis of breast cancer.

NCI will award up to $50k in prizes based on identification of novel findings, replication of findings, innovation of approach, evidence of novel biological hypotheses, and collaboration. Challenge organizers aim to shift the focus of analysis from individual genetic variants to genetic pathways, and explore the heritable contribution of breast cancer disparities.

The U4C will make breast cancer genetic epidemiologic data more widely available.

U4C participants can apply for access to genetic epidemiologic data from thousands of breast cancer cases and controls from ethnically diverse populations, with some of these data sets being made available to researchers for the first time. Participants are encouraged to leverage this data as well as integrate other publicly available data.

Visit the U4C website for more information about the application process, due dates, rules, and other frequently asked questions.

The 2011 America COMPETES Act Reauthorization has enabled federal agencies like NCI to leverage prize competitions and challenges to drive innovation and solve mission-centric problems.

HHS Competes, an HHS IDEA Lab program, supports the use of prizes, challenges, and crowdsourcing to more effectively leverage the intelligence of the crowd to solve our nation’s toughest problems.  Learn more.