Comprehensive Center for the Advancement of Scientific Strategies (COMPASS)

As a program within the Biostatistics Program in the Public Health Sciences Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, COMPASS has been directing multi-center studies in public health research for over 30 years.

The COMPASS organization grew out of our experience establishing and coordinating the Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET), a multi-center lung cancer prevention trial that began in 1983. Since that time, we have expanded and now manage several large-scale research networks and studies, including the Early Detection Research Network (EDRN), Population-based Research to Optimize the Screening Process (PROSPR), Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC), Early Detection Initiative (EDI), New-Onset Diabetes (NOD) cohort, and Translational Liver Cancer (TLC) Consortium, and have been involved in numerous smaller collaborations.

Photo of Ziding Feng
COMPASS Director Dr. Ziding Feng Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

Our Mission:

COMPASS promotes scientific excellence in research aimed at eliminating cancer and other diseases of public health importance by providing state-of-the-art study coordination, communication and statistical analysis services to scientific investigators.


COMPASS fulfills its mission by:

  • pursuing scientific excellence and innovation in the conduct of research studies
  • attracting and retaining the highest quality faculty, management, and staff
  • maintaining a dynamic organizational structure capable of sustaining multiple studies
  • promoting mutual respect, teamwork, and open sharing of ideas
  • providing full-spectrum operational support for research
  • fostering innovative science and accelerated outcomes by bringing together diverse teams across multiple disciplines

COMPASS studies include:

Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET)


PI: Chu Chen, Ph.D., N.R.C.C., D.A.B.C.C.
Co-Investigators: Gary Goodman, M.D., M.S.; Mark Thornquist, Ph.D.; Marian Neuhouser, Ph.D.; Charles Kooperberg, Ph.D.; Noel Weiss, D.P.H.

Visit the public website for CARET

Jackie Dahlgren

The Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET) was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of the cancer prevention efficacy and safety of a daily combination of 30 mg of ß-carotene and 25,000 IU of retinyl palmitate in 18,314 persons at high risk for lung cancer. We studied two high-risk populations: 4,060 men with extensive occupational exposure to asbestos, and 7,965 men and 6,289 women with at least 20 pack-years of cigarette smoking history.

CARET began in 1985 with two pilot studies and expanded to six sites beginning in 1988. The CARET intervention was halted in January 1996, 21 months ahead of schedule, with the twin conclusions for definitive evidence of no benefit and substantial evidence of a harmful effect of the intervention on both lung cancer incidence and total mortality (NEJM 334:1150-5, 1996; JNCI 88:1550-9, 1996). Lung cancer incidence and cardiovascular disease mortality findings during the first six years of post-intervention follow-up were published in 2004 (JNCI 96:1743-50, 2004).

As of June 30, 2005, CARET stopped active follow-up of CARET participants. CARET continues to support the extensive biological repository and ancillary studies that utilize the CARET samples and data.

Early Detection Initiative (EDI)


PI: Ziding Feng, Ph.D.

Jackie Dahlgren

The Early Detection Initiative (EDI) randomized trial is jointly funded by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) and NCI. The purpose of EDI is to develop a feasible and cost-effective approach using imaging in a high-risk new onset diabetes population to detect pancreatic cancer when it can be surgically removed. This transformative program aims to rapidly accelerate progress to develop an early detection strategy for pancreatic cancer.

Working in collaboration with government and research institutions, the PanCAN Early Detection Initiative is a unique opportunity to analyze patients’ blood and other biospecimens for pancreatic cancer biomarkers in a large multi-institutional study. In conjunction, in a designated subset of patients, we will use existing imaging and accelerate the development of improved imaging technology to allow doctors to catch pancreatic cancer sooner when lesions are small.

COMPASS serves as the data management and coordinating center for EDI.

Early Detection Research Network (EDRN)


PIs: Ziding Feng, Ph.D.; Yingye Zheng, Ph.D.; James Dai, Ph.D.

Visit the public website for EDRN

Royce Malnik

The Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) is a national network funded in 1999 for the development, evaluation, and validation of biomarkers for early detection and risk assessment for cancer. Biomarkers are cellular, biochemical, molecular, or genetic alterations by which a normal or abnormal biologic process can be recognized or monitored. Biomarkers are measurable in biological media, such as fluids, tissues, or cells.

In addition to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which funds the EDRN, there are four components to the network: Biomarker Development Laboratories, Biomarker Validation Laboratories, Clinical Validation Centers, and a Data Management and Coordinating Center (DMCC). Under the direction of Principal Investigator Ziding Feng, Ph.D., the DMCC provides logistical, informatics, and statistical services to the EDRN.

The EDRN DMCC, funded in 2000, provides logistical support and coordination for 59 institutions in EDRN; coordinates meetings, conference calls, and workshops; develops and manages the EDRN secure website; develops and maintains, in collaboration with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the EDRN public portal website; participates in the review of validation studies and associate member applications; manages and coordinates EDRN validation studies; develops and maintains the Validation Study Information Management System (VSIMS) for data collection and management; specimen tracking and study monitoring; and conducts statistical methodology research for EDRN.

The DMCC, operated by COMPASS, Fred Hutch (Drs. Feng, Zheng, Dai, Huang, Zhao, Marsh), the University of Washington (Dr. Lila), and statisticians at Dana Farber/Harvard (Dr. Tayob), provides coordination and data management for the EDRN under the direction of the Steering Committee and develops statistical and analytical methods in response to the scientific needs of the network. Specific tasks performed by at the DMCC include:

  • Network Coordination - produce Operating Policy and Procedure Manuals - assist in the development and implementation of collaborative study research protocols, develop and maintain a network secure website and listserv, provide logistical and administrative support for meetings, and provide statistical support for collaborative studies within the network and statistical consultation to center-specific studies.
  • Data Management - provide data management support for collaborative studies in the network, including developing data collection protocols, monitoring adherence, developing and maintaining databases, and providing reports or study data as needed.
  • Theoretical and Applied Research - develop statistical and analytical methods for biomarker evaluation and interpretation, specifically focusing on the development and evaluation of flexible descriptive statistical methods 1) to assess the reliability and reproducibility of biomarkers and to identify factors that contribute to reducing reliability, 2) to assess the accuracy of a biomarker for cancer detection or cancer risk assessment, and factors influencing its diagnostic potential, both when a gold standard exists, and when one does not, 3) to identify cancer heterogeneity for specific biomarkers, and 4) to identify biomarkers from microarray expression data.

New-Onset Diabetes (NOD)


PI: Ziding Feng, Ph.D.

For more information about participating in the NOD cohort, visit the public website

Sarah Nguyen

The New-Onset Diabetes (NOD) cohort is jointly funded by NCI and NIDDK and is part of the Consortium for the study of Chronic Pancreatitis, Diabetes, and Pancreatic Cancer (CPDPC). The CPDPC sub-contracted NOD coordination to the Early Detection Research Network - Data Management and Coordinating Center. The goals of NOD are to prospectively assemble a cohort of subjects >50 and ≤85 years of age with New-Onset Diabetes (NOD), called the NOD Cohort, in order to:

  • Estimate the probability of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) in the NOD Cohort
  • Establish a biobank of clinically annotated biospecimens including a reference set of biospecimens from pre-symptomatic PDAC and control new-onset type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) subjects
  • Facilitate validation of emerging tests for identifying NOD subjects at high risk for having PDAC using the reference set, and
  • Provide a platform for development of an interventional protocol for early detection of sporadic PDAC NOD subjects

Population-based Research to Optimize the Screening Process (PROSPR)


PIs: Christopher Li, M.D., Ph.D.; William Barlow, Ph.D.; Yingye Zheng, Ph.D.

Visit the public website for PROSPR

Stephanie Page-Lester

The Population-based Research to Optimize the Screening Process(PROSPR) is a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded initiative with seven Research Centers and one Statistical Coordinating Center. The PROSPR Statistical Coordinating Center (SCC) established and operates a repository for pooled data (gathered by Research Centers) on the screened populations, the screening process, and clinical outcomes involving breast, cervical and colorectal cancers. The Statistical Coordinating Center:

  • Leads efforts to optimize and standardize terminology, data collection, processing, and exchange across all three cancers, including quality control, management of pooled data, and oversight for the analysis and sharing of the data with investigators.
  • Provides logistical infrastructure for the PROSPR Research Centers and facilitates trans-PROSPR functions and activities, including maintaining the PROSPR secure and public website, facilitating working group meeting and calls, hosting related webinars and organizing the semi-annual investigators meetings.

Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC-CC)


PI: Mark Thornquist, Ph.D.

The Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) was a National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative that supported eight Research Centers and one Coordination Center in two separate funding cycles, 2005-2010 and 2011-2016. The TREC Coordination Center, in partnership with the four Research Centers in each grant cycle, fostered collaboration among transdisciplinary teams of scientists with the goal of accelerating progress toward reducing cancer incidence, morbidity, and mortality associated with obesity, low levels of physical activity, and poor diet. The Centers also provided training opportunities for new and established scientists who could carry out integrative research on energy balance and cancer outcomes. The TREC initiative complemented NCI’s other energy balance research endeavors as well as efforts of the NIH Obesity Task Force. COMPASS served as the Coordination Center (CC), by supporting communication, dissemination, data sharing, and collaboration across the TREC initiative in both cycles, and continued until May 31, 2017."

Translational Liver Cancer (TLC)


PI: Ziding Feng, Ph.D.

Jackie Dahlgren

The Translational Liver Cancer (TLC) Consortium is an NCI funded consortium founded to advance translational research focused on early detection of liver cancer. Under the direction of the Consortium Steering Committee, the DMCC will:

  • Perform network coordination and promote collaborations among scientific investigators by providing support for Consortium meetings, developing and maintaining Consortium secure websites and listservs, and producing and maintaining all Consortium documents;
  • Support Consortium collaborative studies by working with Consortium investigators on study design, protocol development, data forms, and study manuals; coordinating and monitoring studies; tracking specimen sharing, blinding, and randomization; and performing QA/QC and study evaluation;
  • Develop and maintain a Consortium integrated information management system that provides online, end-to- end data management solutions, including study communications, regulatory compliance, remote patient registration, clinical data capture, biospecimen sample management, imaging data repository, document management, and informatic tools; and
  • Use the phased biomarker development guidelines and PRoBE study design standards to help the Consortium develop a roadmap and strategies and ensure rigor and efficiency of the Consortium collaborative phase-2 and phase-3 studies using existing and newly collected specimens from heterogeneous cohorts.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center Campus


Director: Ziding Feng, Ph.D.

Contact: Jackie Dahlgren