Concept Approval for a Workshop on Circadian Disruption.
Dr. Sieber presented a concept approval request for a workshop on circadian disruption and breast cancer. This workshop would bring together approximately 30 consumers, endocrinologists, circadian biologists, and breast cancer researchers to probe the emerging field of circadian biology and address in depth how the disruption of circadian physiology relates to the much-discussed issue of endocrine disruption in the development of breast cancer. Richard Stevens, David Blask, and Ann Fonfa would co-chair the workshop.
Several Steering Committee members questioned the methods used by the Etiology Working Group to select the topics that warrant workshops. They recommended that the Working Group develop a broad vision or agenda by examining what it has done, determining which activities have been successful (e.g., in generating RFAs), and defining future directions.
Ms. Hedetniemi remarked on the difficulty in and cost of calculating concrete results of any workshop.
Dr. Sieber responded that the Working Group is planning to revisit and evaluate its previous workshops during its June in-person meeting. For example, a guest is going to speak on the Cancer Cube, a loose coalition of researchers interested in estrogen and biology in the development of breast cancer; this group formed as a result of the September 1995 Workshop on Hormones, Hormone Metabolism, Environment, and Breast Cancer.
Although the Etiology Working Group does not have a rigorous method for identifying potential workshop topics, Ms. Pearson assured the Steering Committee that circadian disruption is more than a "pet interest." Dr. Sieber added that, during Etiology Working Group meetings, members discuss a broad range of potential topics and, over time, ideas are refined, and one rises to the top as the most pressing or relevant.
In the case of circadian disruption, there has been some interesting preliminary research, and the Working Group has identified this area as a research gap.
Several Steering Committee members agreed that there is a need for this workshop, especially in light of manufacturers' claims that melatonin lowers breast cancer risk and the fact that the Food and Drug Administration cannot regulate the substance because it is a dietary supplement.
They advised the Etiology Working Group Co-Chairs to involve the lay media. Others stated that the workshop would initiate collaboration between chronobiologists and breast cancer researchers.
Because the workshop cannot be held before the end of the current support contract, Steering Committee members asked whether planning for the workshop would be put on hold until another support contract is established. PHS OWH staff members remarked that planning for the workshop could begin under the Working Group's Planning and Communications activity; however, the event would be convened under the new support contract.
DECISION. The Steering Committee approved the Etiology Working Group's request for concept approval for a workshop on circadian disruption and breast cancer.
Environ Health Perspect. 2007 September
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