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Methodological, Bioethical and Societal Impasses of Early Detection of Cancer

The Early Detection Program based at the CRUK/Cambridge Cancer Centre, University of Cambridge, and the Von Hügel Institute (VHI) are planning an interdisciplinary workshop to explore methodological, bioethical and societal Impasses of early detection of cancer

Early detection of cancer is considered one of the most promising approaches to reduce cancer mortality. The general consensus states that an early detection would allow to intervene when the disease is more likely to be effectively cured, with less invasive and costly therapies.  Biomedical research has actively responded to this challenge, pushing our ability to detect early stages of disease and intervene with therapies, procedures or surveillance. As data accumulate, early detection has led to disappointing and conflicting results: over diagnosis, over treatment and iatrogenic complications, increase in healthcare costs and negligible impact in overall survival have been reported for many screening and prevention programs.

Despite this, there is such a profound faith in the paradigm of early detection that failure have been seen an impulse to push the boundaries of diagnosis even further taking advantages of improvements of the current diagnostic technologies, molecular biomarkers discovery and a network of distributed points of care including massive data collection from wearables and other remote devices. In absence of a critical analysis of the idea of early screening, such effort carries a considerable risk of failure and harm to society.

The aim of this event is to discuss open problems related to early detection of cancer covering the following areas:

  • Methodological and epistemological challenges of early detection
  • Bioethical consequences of widespread early detection
  • Individual and medical responsibility
  • Socio-economic impact and sustainability of early detection programs
  • Broader relationships between early detection of cancer and other diseases and the scope of medicine

Papers will challenge aspects of early detection or exemplifying impasses and solution starting from specific examples in the form of an essay or a narrated debate.

The workshop is scheduled to take place at  St Edmund College on 15th March 2018. More details will follow.

For further details please contact Dr Gianmarco Contino


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