Facilitate a major shift in early diagnosis research: our strategy
Encourage a shift towards early-stage disease research
Current basic cancer biology research favours the identification of druggable targets, and the study of later stage or metastatic disease. These biases limit the identification of new approaches to early detection, as they neglect pre-disease and early-disease biology from which hypotheses for diagnostic interventions are likely to arise.
The strength of our biology research means we can lead progress in this area. We will build interest and capacity by prioritising through our Institutes and funding schemes and increasing research in relevant areas of biology, such as inflammation, tumour microenvironment and host response.
Build a concentration of research expertise
In addition to raising the profile of early detection research nationwide, we need to build a critical mass of people working in this area. This will require a concentration of multidisciplinary expertise, with strong links to other disciplines, particularly in the engineering and physical sciences.
We will consult broadly with the research community in the UK and overseas to determine the optimal approach and the most promising avenues for significant investment from us and other partners.
Invest in sample collections
Effective discovery and development of markers to detect cancer earlier is dependent on the collection of high-quality samples from an early, generally presymptomatic, disease stage. There is a need for new cohorts of samples from healthy individuals, ideally collected sequentially and linked to subsequent clinical data.
We will work with other funders and the research community in order to improve awareness of, and access to, existing cohorts while exploring options for investing in valuable new collections in population, high-risk or local groups.
Form effective partnerships
We will form partnerships, including with commercial and international organisations, to build on existing capabilities and infrastructure and bring more perspectives to bear on the challenge of early diagnosis.
We will drive a major shift in early diagnosis research effort by stimulating interest in the research community, by building capacity and expertise, and through targeted investment.
Historically, investment in the area of early diagnosis has been relatively small, both in the UK and internationally. There is only very limited activity from industry due to the high level of investment risk involved and the limited commercial potential.
Several distinct areas of research will contribute towards progress in earlier diagnosis and we will fund across the spectrum from behavioural and epidemiological aspects, through to biomedical research aimed at the identification and development of new markers for the early detection of cancer.
We believe that new methods for early detection will be required. For many cancers, symptoms are non-specific until a relatively late stage in disease progression, and so new ways to detect cancer in asymptomatic individuals will be essential.
Opportunities for your research
In our 2017 Progress Report, we review how we are accelerating research to achieve our ambitions, and the successes we have had so far. We've built on our strengths and continued to bring new perspectives into cancer research
We've launched eight new funding schemes to stimulate priority areas of research, and these have so far allocated over £140 million. We've more than doubled our spend on cancers with substantial unmet need, to £86 million in 2016/17. And we've invested across our UK-wide network of infrastructure, building capacity at our Centres and launching the new Francis Crick Institute, so that we continue to support an outstanding environment for research.