Skip to content

Developing the WCRF International/University of Bristol methodology for identifying and carrying out systematic reviews of mechanisms of exposure-cancer associations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention
Early online date4 Oct 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 19 Sep 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 4 Oct 2017


Background: Human, animal, and cell experimental studies; human biomarker studies; and genetic studies complement epidemiologic findings and can offer insights into biological plausibility and pathways between exposure and disease, but methods for synthesizing such studies are lacking. We, therefore, developed a methodology for identifying mechanisms and carrying out systematic reviews of mechanistic studies that underpin exposure–cancer associations.

Methods: A multidisciplinary team with expertise in informatics, statistics, epidemiology, systematic reviews, cancer biology, and nutrition was assembled. Five 1-day workshops were held to brainstorm ideas; in the intervening periods we carried out searches and applied our methods to a case study to test our ideas.

Results: We have developed a two-stage framework, the first stage of which is designed to identify mechanisms underpinning a specific exposure–disease relationship; the second stage is a targeted systematic review of studies on a specific mechanism. As part of the methodology, we also developed an online tool for text mining for mechanism prioritization (TeMMPo) and a new graph for displaying related but heterogeneous data from epidemiologic studies (the Albatross plot).

Conclusions: We have developed novel tools for identifying mechanisms and carrying out systematic reviews of mechanistic studies of exposure–disease relationships. In doing so, we have outlined how we have overcome the challenges that we faced and provided researchers with practical guides for conducting mechanistic systematic reviews.

Impact: The aforementioned methodology and tools will allow potential mechanisms to be identified and the strength of the evidence underlying a particular mechanism to be assessed.

    Structured keywords

  • ICEP

Download statistics

No data available



  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via AACR at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 501 KB, PDF document


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups