Cambridge joins new transatlantic research alliance to detect cancer at its earliest stage


22-10-2019
  Pre-cancerous pancreatic tissue in mice  Credit: NIH Image Gallery

Cambridge scientists are set to benefit from a major cash injection from Cancer Research UK and partners to develop radical new strategies and technologies to detect cancer at its earliest stage.

The University of Cambridge will be a partner in a new transatlantic research alliance announced today to help more people beat cancer through early detection.

Cancer Research UK will invest up to £40 million over the next five years into the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED).

ACED is a partnership between Cancer Research UK, Canary Center at Stanford University, the University of Cambridge, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, UCL and The University of Manchester. Stanford and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute will also significantly invest in the Alliance, taking the total potential contributions to more than £55 million.

Early detection is essential to help more people beat cancer – a patient’s chance of surviving their disease improves dramatically when cancer is found and treated earlier.

Understanding the biology of early cancers and pre-cancerous states will allow doctors to find accurate ways to spot the disease earlier and where necessary treat it effectively. It could even enable ‘precision prevention’ – where the disease could be stopped from ever occurring in the first place.

UK statistics highlight the major improvements in survival that could be achieved. 5-year survival for six different types of cancer is more than three times higher if the disease is diagnosed at stage one, when the tumour tends to be small and remains localised, compared with survival when diagnosed at stage four, when the cancer tends to be larger and has started to invade surrounding tissue and other organs.*

Advances in early detection technologies will help decrease late-stage diagnosis and increase the proportion of people diagnosed at an early and treatable stage, so a future for more patients can be secured.

Great strides have been made through existing screening programmes, such as for bowel, breast and cervical cancer, and increasing public awareness and GP urgent referral of patients with suspicious symptoms. However, for many cancer types, no screening tools exist and new technologies for detecting cancer have been slow to emerge. 

Previously, researchers taking on this challenge have faced many barriers, including lack of funding and collaboration opportunities, meaning research has been small scale and disconnected. Individual research groups have chipped away at big challenges with limited success. By combining the ‘firepower’ of some of the leading research institutions in the world in early detection, ACED will accelerate breakthroughs, leading to quicker benefits for patients.

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Image:  Pre-cancerous pancreatic tissue in mice

Credit: NIH Image Gallery

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

 

The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

University of Cambridge (cam.ac.uk)