Early Detection Research Committee

Early detection research seeks to enable the detection of cancer, or pre-cancerous states, at the earliest possible time point at which an intervention might be made.

The Early Detection Research Committee is responsible for the oversight, development, review, funding and management of a portfolio of research Programmes and Projects which include discovery and validation of signatures of early cancer, and development of the technologies to enable this. These signatures may detect and also underpin prognosis/stratification/prediction of response to therapy and/or prevention.

Research can involve discovery, pre-clinical and/or clinical/translational science which is mindful of the clinical and population context. The Committee will meet twice per year.

Funding schemes

Scientific remit

Early detection (EDx) research operates across the full pathway of disease development, from the earliest changes suggesting initiation, to dysregulated growth, promotion to pre-neoplastic states/lesions, malignant conversion, and tumour progression. Each of these stages provide an opportunity to detect a shift in state and intervene. EDx can also be applied post-therapy to detect recurrence.

We fund research in these areas:

Biological research underpinning early detection and biomarker discovery and validation

Including, but not limited to:

  • Basic cellular and molecular science around the earliest transformational events pushing a cell from normal to at-risk to dysregulated to cancerous, thereby suggesting potential early detection markers to be explored
  • ‘Omics for early detection: high throughput, high dimensional data research in markers for early detection, including proteomics, metabolomics, lipidomics, genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics
  • Basic biology and detection of circulating cellular and nucleic acid markers for early detection of cancer or pre-disease, e.g. ctDNA, CTCs, exosomes, RNAs
  • Studies may include the use of model systems, such as model organisms, cell lines, organoids and xenografts, or primary human samples

Human-based EDx discovery research

Including, but not limited to:

  • Biomarker discovery and validation in early stage disease (and pre-cancerous state) patients
  • Biomarker discovery and validation in healthy volunteers
  • Exploitation of existing cohorts and biobanks for discovery research and technology development in an early detection context

Stratification of populations by risk

  • To identify and exploit high-risk groups as populations for early detection research, and as appropriate clinical contexts for development of novel detection technologies
  • Use of the tools, methods and insights of population science, epidemiology and risk assessment through collaborative research to inform the above

Data and computation-driven approaches to early detection

Including, but not limited to:

  • Biomedical and health informatics: computational high dimensional data analytics for interpretation of potential early detection marker profiles; analysis and integration of (multimodal) data arising from e.g. genomics, proteomics, imaging, e-health records, patient/public-derived data (personal activity monitors etc)
  • Computational and systems biology: computational and mathematical modelling of complex networks and systems to understand normal, pre-cancer and early cancer biology. Modelling of the interaction within and between complex biological systems to facilitate early detection and prediction of implications of markers (e.g. distinguishing lethal from dormant disease)

Development and utilisation of preclinical early detection model systems

To recapitulate early cancer and precancerous states, including, but not limited to:

  • Cellular, organoid, xenograft, and animal models
  • Creation and characterisation of new model systems
  • Use of model systems to probe and understand early events leading from normal cellular function through to cancer
  • Use of model systems to identify potential early detection markers for future clinical validation
  • Use of models systems as platforms for development of early detection technologies

Early detection technology development

Exploratory and translational research, including, but not limited to:

  • Imaging: progressive research into advanced imaging technologies for cancer detection. Novel modalities, novel probes, novel contrast agents etc
  • Circulating marker detection technology: enhancement of sensitivity/specificity of detection technologies for ultra-low concentration circulating markers e.g. cells, DNA, proteins, exosomes
  • Advanced detection technologies (nanotech, photonics, synthetic markers etc.): engineering and physical science to enable novel methods of detection of very low-concentration markers

Translational and clinical early detection research

Experimental work in patients and healthy volunteers around development and validation of early detection approaches and technologies.

How proposals are judged

For Early Detection Project Awards, a full application should be submitted online, which will be sent out for international peer-review. Applicants will be invited to submit a written response to reviewers’ comments.  The application, review comments and response will be examined by the Early Detection Research Committee and a decision will be made.

For Early Detection Programme Awards, an outline should be submitted online for review by members of the Early Detection Research Committee. The Committee will invite some applicants to submit a full application online, which will be sent out for international peer-review. The application and review comments will be examined by the Early Detection Research Committee, and the applicant will have an opportunity to present their proposal to the Committee and answer any questions they may have. Following this, a decision will be made by the Early Detection Research Committee.

Observe a committee meeting

As part of our commitment to training the next generation of leaders in the early detection field, we're offering early-career researchers the opportunity to observe our committee meetings, held in May and November at our London offices. If you're interested in observing a meeting, please get in touch.

Contact us


Dr David Crosby


Dr David Crosby

Head of Early Detection Research

Tel +44 (0) 20 3469 6086


Dr Alexis Webb


Dr Alexis Webb

Senior Research Funding Manager

Tel +44 (0) 20 3469 5232


Picture coming soon


Dr Ana Lopez 

Research Funding Manager

Tel +44 (0) 20 3469 5691



Professor Molly Stevens - Imperial College London


Professor Peter Kuhn - University of Southern California

Professor Mark Arends - University of Edinburgh

Mr Billy Boyle - Owlstone Medical

Professor Sir Mike Brady - University of Oxford

Professor George Hanna - Imperial College London

Professor Sam Janes - University College London

Professor Klaus Pantel - University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)

Professor Tony Ng - Kings College London

Professor Katherine Vallis - University of Oxford

Professor Lisa Coussens - Oregon Health and Science University

Professor Christina Curtis - Stanford University

Dr Fiona Walter - University of Cambridge

Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani - Institute of Cancer Research

Our strategy for early detection research

We've made early detection a strategic priority at an exciting time for this nascent field. With more than just funding, we're helping the field to establish a mature and sustainable community, and realise its full potential to transform how and when cancers are detected and diagnosed.

Early Detection Conference

Our annual Early Detection of Cancer Conference, held in partnership with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, provides the perfect opportunity to network and build new collaborations with experts from many different disciplines.

Improving translation of research for better patient outcomes

In 2018, we held a workshop on challenges facing emerging early detection and diagnosis approaches. Our report outlines how we could accelerate translational research and implementation in the healthcare system.