Improving the translation of early detection and diagnosis cancer research for better patient outcomes

We’re working with the Academy of Medical Sciences to address the challenges facing emerging early detection and diagnosis approaches and technologies. Together we held a FORUM Workshop that makes recommendations for the translation and implementation of these technologies in the healthcare system.

The challenge

There are still only two widely used bloodborne cancer biomarkers in primary care – these are same markers that were in use 25 years ago. This highlights how challenging the pathway from basic science and early detection research through to development of diagnostic technologies and implementation in the healthcare system is.

The NHS has well-established infrastructure and support for the translation of new therapeutics and disease management techniques into practice. However, the translational pathway for novel cancer detection and diagnostic technologies is poorly defined and hard for researchers in this space to navigate.

Addressing these issues will require buy-in and commitment from stakeholders across multidisciplinary fields.


The early detection and interception of cancer will be one of the main ways in which we will beat the disease in the future. Not only does it provide routes to more effective treatment, it also provides health systems around the world a way in which to grapple with the mounting costs of care in complex diseases such as cancer. But the challenge we face in getting the research done and the interventions through to the health system are significant. This report provides a way forward and a challenge to all of us involved, which we need to meet.

Dr Iain Foulkes, Executive Director Research & Innovation, CRUK


Our workshop

We held a FORUM Workshop with the Academy of Medical Sciences in February 2018. We welcomed over 60 participants to this multidisciplinary event, including representation from academia, industry, patients, regulators, funders, commissioners and healthcare professionals.


The outcomes from the workshop include:

  • To improve the evidence generation of early detection and diagnosis research:
    • We need a national repository of longitudinal samples linked to clinical data, to be made available for the discovery and validation of novel diagnostic assays.   
    • Researchers should develop ‘target product profiles’ for emerging technologies to ensure there is a clear clinical need, defined performance and health economic characteristics.
  • To support the planning and delivery of clinical trials for diagnostics, we need infrastructure for the clinical evaluation of diagnostic tests to provide a stable platform of expertise to accelerate progression to the clinic, equivalent to a Clinical Trials Unit (CTU).
  • To improve the outcomes of screening trials, researchers should risk-stratify populations to increase surveillance of those that benefit from it and decrease surveillance of those that do not.
  • We need health service planners to recognise the real cost-saving benefits of early detection and diagnostic technologies, which are often only evident over a long term, when assessing the economic rationale for adoption of new diagnostics.
  • We need a system change in the NHS to focus more on early detection and diagnosis, rather than treatment, in order to fully capitalise on the disruptive potential of novel cancer diagnostic technologies.
  • We need a roadmap for the translation of early detection and diagnosis tests, as a resource to support researchers through the various stages, and guidelines for evidence generation, diagnostic development, clinical evaluation, and economic viability.


For the development of new cancer detection and diagnostic technologies to be truly transformational it’s essential that industry and the research community focus their efforts on cancer sites and parts of the diagnostic pathway where there is maximum potential for impact. Developing a roadmap and bringing a pragmatic approach to early detection research should help accelerate benefit to patients and population health.

Dr Sara Hiom, Director of Early Diagnosis & Cancer Intelligence, CRUK


Download the full report (PDF)

In partnership with

AMS logo

A new frontier for early detection research

Early Detection

We've made an ambitious commitment to invigorate early detection research by stimulating research interest, building capacity, forging new partnerships, and actively supporting a community for early detection research.

More early detection research opportunities

Early detection research

Early detection of cancer is one of our top priorities and we have funding and other support to help you develop your early detection research, whether you're established in the field, early in your career, or applying your research to early detection for the first time.