UK universities embark on £10 million lung cancer research collaboration

Two UK universities will lead a consortium dedicated to exploring new ways to diagnose lung cancer earlier.

The Universities of Southampton and Leeds will collaborate with healthcare, diagnostics and informatics companies including BC Platforms, Inivata, Oncimmune, Roche, the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson, and others.

The research will aim to find the best way to detect cancers when they can still be cured, linking to the NHS Targeted Lung Health Checks programme and as part of the Government’s Early Diagnosis Mission, which hopes to diagnose three quarters of cancers at an early stage by 2028.

Around £3.5 million-worth of funding from UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), as part of the overall £10 million investment in the project, has helped enable the programme go-ahead. The project, called iDx-LUNG, will be coordinated by the Cancer Research UK/NIHR Southampton Clinical Trials Unit.

Currently around 25,000 people are diagnosed with advanced and inoperable lung cancer per year, and it remains the cancer which causes the most deaths, both in the UK and worldwide. While diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer reportedly costs the NHS £307 million per year.

Peter Johnson, project lead and Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Southampton, said: “We urgently need to find ways to detect lung cancer early, to drive up people’s chances of a cure. This unique collaborative effort between universities, the NHS and companies with ground-breaking technologies is aimed at doing just that.”

The project will also target people at high risk of developing cancer.

Richard Neal, who is Professor of Primary Care Oncology at the University of Leeds, as well as a GP in the West Yorkshire city, said of the research: “Lung cancer remains a huge problem as we continue to see it diagnosed at a very advanced stage, when curative treatments could have been possible. This work will help us to target those at most risk and diagnose the disease at an earlier and treatable stage.”

Part of the programme will involve 15,000 people across Hampshire and Yorkshire being asked to give blood samples and nasal swabs, when attending NHS England lung health checks at mobile CT scanners. The samples will be analysed to try and spot potential early cancer development, with these tests never previously having been used in combination with each other or CT scanning before.