I love this. I love it that the NCI has committed to a whole range of research on "Provocative Questions". As you know, ordinarily researchers have to present vast amounts of careful data and forumalation and early results to receive funding. Now there is also a (small) parallel process to look further at good ideas. I imagine scientists sitting over brandy and talking, and someone saying "I just had an idea...." You know the whole cliche about chance favoring the prepared mind.
Here is an article from Cancer Scope. I give you the beginning and then a link:
NCI explores "provocative questions"
Seeks to address the less researched aspects of cancer
"Why is breast cancer such a different disease in Japan and other Asian countries, as compared to the US? The difference is not just an overall lower rate. Breast cancer occurs more frequently among middle-aged females, as compared to older (60+) women in Japan, unlike the US. Furthermore, Japanese women show a better prognosis than US women, even when controlling for tumor size and lymph node metastasis."
"Why are so few cancer vaccines made against surface tumor antigens? Surface antigens like HER-2 and MUC1 are better targets than the more popular intracellular antigens. Immune recognition of intracellular antigens depends entirely on antigen processing machinery and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) expression, both frequently defective in tumors. Cancer immunology and immunotherapy could find a wealth of new vaccine targets among tyrosine kinase receptors and other classes of cancer-related surface molecules."
—Sample questions from the NCI's "Provocative Questions" website