Researchers pilot new tests for the early detection of lung cancer, as ground-breaking trial gets underway in Yorkshire

The first participants are being invited to take part in a ground-breaking research trial that aims to save lives by improving the early diagnosis of lung cancer.

Every year, 25,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with advanced, inoperable lung cancer, making it the biggest cause of cancer death in the UK, and costing the NHS £307m a year.

Starting this week, people at high risk of lung cancer who are attending the Yorkshire Cancer Research-funded Leeds Lung Health Check mobile CT (computed tomography) scanning units in Leeds will be invited to give blood samples which will be analysed as part of the iDx Lung trial. This analysis will look for changes that may indicate the presence of early cancer development. All of these are tests have been developed by different companies, but have never been used in combination, or with CT scanning, to see which might be the most efficient at finding early lung cancers.

The iDx Lung trial is led by The Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health (LCPMH), The University of Leeds, in conjunction with Southampton University and healthcare and diagnostics companies. The trial will run alongside the Yorkshire Lung Screening Trial, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, and aims to find new ways to detect lung cancer at an early stage when it is more treatable.

The trial will use the blood samples to determine whether the use of biomarkers identified in the samples could help select those eligible for CT screening more efficiently, thereby improving early diagnosis and survival rates. At the moment, the eligibility criteria for CT screening means that only 30% of lung cancers are caught, with 70% occurring in patients who are not eligible for screening under current guidelines.

We are delighted to be working on this important project with University of Southampton, the NHS and industry partners. Lung cancer remains a huge problem as we continue to see it diagnosed at a very advanced stage, when curative treatments could have been possible. This work will help us to target those at most risk and diagnose the disease at an earlier and treatable stage.

Richard Neal, Professor of Primary Care Oncology at the University of Leeds, and a GP in the city

The study aims to collect samples from 4,000 patients in Yorkshire and will combine the results from the CT scan and the identified biomarkers into an integrated data platform. The combined findings will result in better identification of those individuals most at risk and improve the accuracy of the diagnosis, as well as dramatically improving outcomes for patients. What’s more, the diagnostic process will be streamlined, saving money and ensuring resources are directed to help those with the greatest need.

We know that lung cancer can be treated successfully if we catch it early, but too often it can go unnoticed and is then picked up at a late stage when treatment options are limited. By bringing some of the latest molecular technology to this problem, we hope that we can find better ways to detect lung cancer in its early stages and make sure people have the best chance of a cure.

Professor Peter Johnson, Chief Investigator of the trial

The research collaborators for the trial include the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Oncimmune, Inivata, BC Platforms and others who have developed the diagnostic tests to be used in the trial.

The trial is being funded by a £2.75m grant from UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) and is part of a total investment of £10 million from the Government’s Early Diagnosis Mission. The Yorkshire Lung Screening Trial is funded by a £7.7m grant from Yorkshire Cancer Research.