Early detection of cancer highlighted in new life sciences industrial strategy

Cancer Research UK

Early detection of cancer could be vastly improved by seizing opportunities in the UK’s life sciences, according to a new report. 

The life sciences industrial strategy, commissioned by the Government and written by representatives of the field, sets out key areas to focus on to make the most of the sector over the coming years.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive and contributor to the report, said that challenges from Brexit and an under-pressure NHS mean that the strategy comes at a critical time.

The report had input from charities, academics and pharmaceutical companies, and calls for sustained effort, support and investment in life sciences over a period of at least 5 years. 

“This strategy is not a done deal, so it’s crucial there is sufficient government investment and commitment from the NHS to make it a reality as quickly as possible,” said Kumar. 

The report calls for a migration system that allows recruitment of highly skilled workers from around the world. It states that increased funding for early-stage science and improvements to clinical trials are needed to make progress.

The report also proposes a programme to bring together research funders and the NHS to improve collaboration and make better use of data. It aims to widen the use of genomic sequencing in diagnosis and treatment, improve early diagnosis and promote healthy ageing of the population. 

All of these points are vital to improving cancer care and survival. 

“We’re particularly pleased to see early detection feature so prominently – a revolution in this field would dramatically improve the chances for cancer patients and create a more sustainable health system,” said Kumar.

According to the report, the UK life sciences generate £64 billion of turnover and employ more than 233,000 scientists and staff. 

The important contribution and collaboration of charities and other bodies to the life sciences sector is acknowledged throughout the report.

“Cancer Research UK’s aim is to see 3 in 4 patients surviving cancer by 2034 and a thriving research environment in the UK is critical to help us achieve this ambition,” said Kumar. 

Professor John Bell, who led the report, said: “This strategy provides a unique opportunity for the country and I hope it can be delivered effectively in the coming years.