Current research into early diagnosis
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Saving lives through research
From looking for cancer 'red flags' to identifying patients 'at risk', our researchers are finding ways to diagnose cancer patients early, when treatment is more likely to be successful. Below are some examples of what our researchers are doing right now.
Our current research
Identifying those at risk
Dr Beth Payne in London is focussed on myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). She's trying to better understand how a condition called CHIP (Clonal Haematopoiesis of Indeterminate Potential) can lead to an increased risk of leukaemia. She hopes that this will help find ways to identify which people with CHIP are most at risk of developing cancer. This could help prioritise patients for monitoring, helping early diagnosis.
Developing a blood test
Dr Hector Keun in London is working on developing a simple blood test to detect cancer early. He is looking at blood samples from cancer patients that were taken before they were diagnosed. From these, he's hoping to spot common 'red flags' that doctors can look for, in order to detect cancer.
Finding a cancer paper trail
Dr Jem Rashbass, from Health Data Insight, is trying to find a paper trail for cancer, using prescription history. By looking through 66 million prescriptions per month he hopes to find patterns of prescriptions that may precede a cancer diagnosis. Only half of patients who go on to be diagnosed with cancer will have an obvious cancer symptom, says Rashbass. “We want to help GPs identify those patients that have cancer, to help them get diagnosed earlier.”
Developing a blood ‘nano–test’ for cancer
Professor Kostas Kostarelos and his collaborators in Manchester are using tiny nanoparticles to help get more information from blood tests. He's using nanoparticles to help "fish out" molecular signals from growing cancer. He hopes these molecular signals could be used as early warning signs of cancer. These could one day be developed into a test and help diagnose people early.
Trialling a 'sponge-on-a-string' test
Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald in Cambridge has developed a test called ‘sponge-on-a-string’, or ‘Cytosponge’. When coupled with a simple laboratory test it can be used to diagnose Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition that can develop into oesophageal cancer. Identifying people with this condition and monitoring them over time could help doctors diagnose oesophageal cancer earlier. Professor Fitzgerald is running a trial in GP surgeries around the UK to test the sponge-on-a-string. The aim is to determine whether it is cheaper and easier than current methods used to diagnose Barrett’s oesophagus.