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Center for Innovation in Early Cancer Detection

We spark collaborations at Massachusetts General Hospital that will accelerate innovation from all fields of medicine, genetics, bioengineering, and population science to build, test, and apply new technologies for early cancer detection.
Lecia V. Sequist, MD, MPH and Ibiayi Dagogo-Jack, MD.
Lecia V. Sequist, MD, MPH and Ibiayi Dagogo-Jack, MD.

Explore the Center for Innovation in Early Cancer Detection


The Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center established the Center for Innovation in Early Cancer Detection (CIECD) to increase the development of new cancer-detecting technologies. By bringing together dedicated scientists and clinicians from Mass General, Harvard Medical School and the entire Boston biomedical community, the center seeks to pair cancer detection technologies with clinical resources – with the goal of improving early cancer detection and treatment, leading to increased cures for patients around the world.

Most cancers are detected after people experience symptoms that cause them to seek medical evaluation. This often means that cancers are diagnosed when they are locally invasive or already metastatic, and no longer treatable with simple surgery or radiation treatment. Current strategies for cancer screening are limited both by their lack of sensitivity and specificity. As applied to very early cancers, which are most likely to be curable, there is an urgent need to distinguish between invasive and less invasive lesions, to avoid overtreatment and its associated risks and costs.

Under the direction of Lecia V. Sequist, MD, MPH, and with support from Mass General Cancer Center Director Daniel A. Haber, MD, PhD, the CIECD will cultivate collaboration across disciplines and lead to new avenues of innovation. Through a strong infrastructure that will include expert leadership from diverse fields, dedicated research staff, and shared resources and databases, the CIECD will increase efficiency in both early pilot work and subsequent large-scale clinical trials, speeding the delivery of new cancer diagnosis technologies.

Emerging Technologies

We now stand to transform cancer screening and diagnostics with new technologies, moving away from relying on traditional radiology imaging and blood protein markers, toward molecular blood-based signatures that could potentially be more sensitive and reliable as diagnostic options.

  • A Mass General research team has developed the most sensitive, specific and automated technology available for isolating circulating tumor cells (CTCs), rare cancer cells present in the blood of patients who have invasive cancers. However, the most promising clinical application of CTC technologies is their use to detect cancer early, before it spreads to other parts of the body. Researchers are now conducting “proof of concept” clinical studies in several cancers, including prostate cancer and lung cancer, where the current screening methods are not specific enough, as well as pancreatic cancer, where no screening test currently exists.
  • In addition to technologies developed by Mass General-led teams, a wide array of technologies is emerging in both academic and commercial settings that are primed for testing and validation in a clinical research environment. These include additional blood-based measurements such as circulating plasma DNA and exosomes, as well as urine-based diagnostics.
  • We are also exploring an array of complementary strategies that are focused on molecular imaging using tumor-specific markers, including nanoparticle probes, as well as developing sophisticated analysis sensors, such as high-resolution optical imaging.

Uniquely Positioned

The Mass General Cancer Center is uniquely positioned to lead a major effort in developing innovative diagnostics for early cancer detection. We will leverage several distinct features, including:

  • A track record of success in building cross-disciplinary, translational research efforts that have led to a change in approach to cancer diagnostics and therapeutics.
  • A core group of cancer investigators with established collaborations in cancer diagnostics, with both academic labs and companies.
  • An integrated team of primary care and disease-focused specialists and biostatisticians with an interest in cancer screening and early detection.
  • Our location at the hub of the world’s most dynamic innovation ecosystem that includes MIT, Harvard, the Broad, Kendall Square, and dozens of industry-leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

Meet the Team


  • Lecia V. Sequist, MD, MPH
    Director, Center for Innovation in Early Cancer Detection
  • Daniel A. Haber, MD, PhD
    Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

Internal Advisory Board:

  • James A. Brink, MD
    Chair, Department of Radiology
  • Keith D. Lillemoe, MD
    Chair, Department of Surgery
  • David N. Louis, MD
    Chief, Department of Pathology
  • David P. Ryan, MD
    Chief, Division of Hematology/Oncology
    Clinical Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
  • Steven J. Skates, PhD
    Investigator, Biostatistics Center
  • Mehmet Toner, PhD
    Director, BioMicroElectroMechanical Systems (BioMEMS) Resource Center



Contact the Mass General Cancer Center

Contact us to make an appointment or to learn more about our programs.