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  • Principal Investigator: Richard Neal, Fiona Walter
  • 1 March 2022 to 30 June 2023
  • Project No: 577
  • Funding round: FR3

In the long term we are trying to help GPs diagnose cancer more quickly and at a stage when the treatments work better and the chances of survival are much greater. The project will perform systematic reviews – this means looking for all the research that has been published on subjects and summarising the key messages that will help us better understand how to help GPs.

It is well known that many cancer patients experience unnecessary delays in their diagnosis. We think that technology can help GPs diagnose patients with cancer or send patients to hospital who they think have cancer. The computer technology we hope to build in a future project should enable GPs to make quicker and more accurate decisions about individual patients based upon things like symptoms, blood test results and the results of x-rays and scans. Not only will this help speed up cancer diagnosis but also prevent some patients being referred to hospital who do not need to go. The results from this project will help us build this technology.

In this project we are focusing on cancer in or around the chest. This includes lung cancer, some types of cancer of the lymph nodes. We will review the different types of x-rays and scans, and blood tests used for these cancers, and how good they are in detecting them. There are many different types of blood tests (‘biomarkers’ – and measuring many different things) and we will assess all of these. We will also look at the harms that can be caused by testing (for example, identifying lung nodules that do not progress to cancer) and how often these tests miss cancer when it is present.

To do this study, we are not going to be looking at actual patient test results but the articles that have been published by researchers. This is an important first step to learn from past research and it will enable us to report the ability of tests (scans, blood tests etc) to diagnose cancer correctly. At the end of our project we will write an article for GPs and for patients and the public to say what we’ve found and how it might help speed up cancer diagnosis. We will involve patients and the public in all aspects of the project to make sure that what matters to them is being addressed by the research.

Our ultimate aim is to use the findings to help develop the technology for GPs to use in real interactions with patients this will be done in a separate project. Our goal is for patients with cancer to be detected as quickly as possible through their GP, leading to faster treatment and less deaths.

Amount Awarded: £70,162

Projects by themes

We have grouped projects under the five SPCR themes in this document

Evidence synthesis working group

The collaboration will be conducting 18 high impact systematic reviews, under four workstreams.