Activities by Research Fields

Biomarker Research in EPIC

Over the past decades, cancer research has used biochemical markers with the aim of better defining exposure, improving early detection, and refining susceptibility, to better understand the etiology of the disease, and to improve its treatment.

The large and diverse collection of the EPIC biobank, and the optimal long-term storage of its biological specimens (liquid nitrogen), allows the measurements of pre-diagnostic biomarkers of exposure, recovery, and prediction (from serum, plasma, and red blood cells), and provides the opportunity to study genetic susceptibility (by extracting DNA from buffy coats) to perform studies at the forefront of research. The long follow-up of the EPIC cohort is key for the identification of potential markers of early detection.

More than 80 manuscripts have been published so far in high-impact-factor journals on biomarker-based research in EPIC. Many of these were breakthrough studies and opened new avenues of research on cancer etiology. Major results include associations of endogenous hormones with breast cancer risk in pre- and post-menopausal women (overall and by receptor status), of circulating plasma phospholipid fatty acid concentrations (especially oleic acid, α-linolenic acid, and di-homo-γ-linolenic acid) and gastric adenocarcinomas, the reduction in colorectal cancer risk with increasing circulating vitamin D concentrations, of lung cancer risk with increasing vitamin B6 and methionine concentrations, and of colon cancer risk with increasing serum HDL.

In addition to publications based only on its own data, EPIC is substantially contributing to large, international collaborative studies and consortia exploring biomarker-based research on cancer or intermediate end-points: Endogenous Hormones and Breast Cancer Collaborative Group, InterAct, and EPIC-Heart.

Selected publications

  1. Kaaks R et al. Serum sex steroids in premenopausal women and breast cancer risk within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). J Natl Cancer Inst. 2005 May 18;97(10):755-65. PMID: 15900045

  2. Johansson M et al. Serum B vitamin levels and risk of lung cancer. JAMA. 2010 Jun 16;303(23):2377-85. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.808. PMID: 20551408

  3. Jenab M et al. Association between pre-diagnostic circulating vitamin D concentration and risk of colorectal cancer in European populations: a nested case-control study. BMJ 2010; 340; PMID: 20093284

  4. van Duijnhoven FJ et al. Blood lipid and lipoprotein concentrations and colorectal cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Gut. 2011 Aug;60(8):1094-102. PMID: 21383385

  5. Chajès V et al. Plasma phospholipid fatty acid concentrations and risk of gastric adenocarcinomas in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-EURGAST). Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Nov;94(5):1304-13. PMID: 21993438

  6. James RE et al. Postmenopausal serum sex steroids and risk of hormone receptor-positive and -negative breast cancer: a nested case-control study. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2011 Oct;4(10):1626-35. PMID: 21813404

  7. Kaaks R et al. Insulin-like growth factor I and risk of breast cancer by age and hormone receptor status - A prospective study within the EPIC cohort. Int J Cancer. 2013 Nov 7. PMID: 24248481

  8. Kaaks R et al. Premenopausal serum sex hormone levels in relation to breast cancer risk, overall and by hormone receptor status - Results from the EPIC cohort. Int J Cancer. 2013 Oct 8. PMID: 24155248

  9. Endogenous Hormones and Breast Cancer Collaborative Group. Endogenous sex hormones and breast cancer in postmenopausal women: reanalysis of nine prospective studies. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2002 Apr 17;94(8):606-16. PMID: 11959894

  10. Endogenous Hormones and Breast Cancer Collaborative Group. Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), IGF binding protein 3 (IGFBP3), and breast cancer risk: pooled individual data analysis of 17 prospective studies. Lancet Oncol. 2010 Jun;11(6):530-42. PMID: 20472501

  11. Endogenous Hormones and Breast Cancer Collaborative Group. Sex hormones and risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women: a collaborative reanalysis of individual participant data from seven prospective studies. Lancet Oncol. 2013 Sep;14(10):1009-19. PMID: 23890780