The prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer screening trial and its associated research resource

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 Nov 20;105(22):1684-93. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djt281. Epub 2013 Oct 10.


The Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial is a large-scale research effort conducted by the National Cancer Institute. PLCO offers an example of coordinated research by both the extramural and intramural communities of the National Institutes of Health. The purpose of this article is to describe the PLCO research resource and how it is managed and to assess the productivity and the costs associated with this resource. Such an in-depth analysis of a single large-scale project can shed light on questions such as how large-scale projects should be managed, what metrics should be used to assess productivity, and how costs can be compared with productivity metrics. A comprehensive publication analysis identified 335 primary research publications resulting from research using PLCO data and biospecimens from 2000 to 2012. By the end of 2012, a total of 9679 citations (excluding self-citations) have resulted from this body of research publications, with an average of 29.7 citations per article, and an h index of 45, which is comparable with other large-scale studies, such as the Nurses' Health Study. In terms of impact on public health, PLCO trial results have been used by the US Preventive Services Task Force in making recommendations concerning prostate and ovarian cancer screening. The overall cost of PLCO was $454 million over 20 years, adjusted to 2011 dollars, with approximately $37 million for the collection, processing, and storage of biospecimens, including blood samples, buccal cells, and pathology tissues.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Early Detection of Cancer* / economics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Mass Screening* / economics
  • Mass Screening* / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • National Cancer Institute (U.S.)
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / economics
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods
  • Research Design
  • Research Support as Topic*
  • United States / epidemiology