Early Cancer Detection
Achieving NHS England’s Long Term Plan target to detect 75% cancers at an early stage by 2028 would mean an extra 55,000 patients per year will survive their cancer for at least 5 years.
Significant healthcare resources are invested in screening programmes, primary care and the monitoring of patients known to be at a higher risk of cancer. This is done so that cancers are detected as early as possible. Oxford cancer researchers have made significant contributions to these programmes already, including;
- pioneering the use of mammography in breast cancer screening (Sir Mike Brady)
- the establishment of vague symptoms pathways (Brian Nicholson and Fergus Gleeson)
- implementation of automated cancer risk scores in primary care (Julia Hippisley-Cox).
Despite these and the efforts of many others across the UK, only 54% of cancers in 2017 were detected at stage I or II (when they are more easily cured) and 20% of cancers are still detected only through last minute emergencies. New and optimised patient pathways that integrate the latest diagnostic technologies will be critical in continuing to detect cancer earlier and a significant contributor to decreasing cancer deaths in the future.
The Oxford Centre for Early Cancer Detection (OxCODE) was established in 2019 to bring together Oxford’s multidisciplinary community of researchers and clinicians interested in early cancer detection. Visit the OxCODE website to find out more about the Oxford’s early cancer detection strategy and leadership, as well as news and updates on Oxford’s key programmes. OxCODE's vision is to generate a Quantitative Risk Score - the ‘Oxford QR code’ to enable personalised risk stratification for malignant cancer development.
Through OxCODE, Oxford aims to build upon the ongoing early detection successes. Below summarises three of the key challenges that Oxford cancer researchers are tackling to advance early cancer detection.
Visit the Oxford Centre for Early Cancer Detection (OxCODE) website, dedicated to news and updates on Oxford’s work in cancer early detection.
Early Detection News
What are the challenges we are tackling?
1. Assessing cancer risk
Identifying cancer in asymptomatic patients, and those at an increased risk of developing cancer, is one way to target screening programmes to those that need it most and ensure that cancer is diagnosed as early as possible.
To address this, Oxford is applying its expertise in epidemiology, data science, (epi)genomics and infection/immunity through cross-disciplinary collaborations to allow assessment of an individual’s risk for cancer using mechanistic insights and large population studies.
2. Predicting progression
Individuals who have conditions that place them at higher risk of developing cancer are routinely monitored for tumours. This repeated monitoring is costly and takes a toll on the emotional welfare of individuals, the vast majority of whom never go on to develop cancer. A better understanding of the drivers of progression are needed so that those at no risk of developing cancer can be discharged from care.
In addition, this approach will enable better prediction of those who are likely to develop cancer and fast track them for preventative treatments. Using novel technologies, Oxford researchers are investigating ways of predicting cancer progression.
3. Developing novel diagnostic strategies
Diagnosing cancer can currently involve dangerous invasive procedures and expensive medical scans. Often, these approaches are cancer type specific and typically applied sequentially, which means that from the moment a patient presents with symptoms, it can sometimes be weeks or months before a diagnosis is received. For late-stage cancers this often decreases the success of treatment.
Oxford researchers are combatting these challenges in a variety of ways, including identifying new early-stage cancer biomarkers, non-invasive analytical methods and integrating them into novel multi-cancer and cancer-specific platforms for rapid diagnosis.