What is early detection?
- Early detection refers to efforts that can be taken to diagnose cancer as early as possible, when the disease is easiest to treat.
- Earlier detection looks to identify those few people at risk of cancer within the larger population, and to assess the best possible actions for those people.
- This can involve both screening programmes across the population and also individual personal education to support early diagnosis of warning signs for potential cancer.
Why is early detection important?
- When cancer is found earlier, it can be easier to treat successfully – often requiring fewer complex and expensive treatments.
- Currently, nearly half of all cancers in England are diagnosed at an advanced stage.
- We aim to undertake research to help identify cancers earlier, so that more patients can benefit from treatment which is likely to cure them; minimise adverse side effects of many treatments now in current use; and reduce the economic burden of advanced cancer.
Our early detection vision is to focus on three critical biological stages along the cancer timeline that dictate the trajectory towards malignant cancer development: initiation, progression from precursors and metastasis .
Each stage represents a window of opportunity for early detection to enhance biological understanding and improve patient outcome.
Our aims for early cancer detection in Oxford are to:
- find those at risk of cancer sooner;
- identify those for whom intervention is necessary and not treat those who don’t;
- achieve both of these using the most minimally invasive and implementable detection tools.
In order to deliver this vision, our research community brings together expertise across epidemiologists, trialists, radiologists, pathologists, primary care physicians, molecular and cellular biologists, chemists, engineers and mathematicians in large interdisciplinary teams. This enables us to effectively realise the potential for cohorts, biomarker discovery, tool development, and artificial intelligence to improve the early detection of cancer.
Activity spans multiple Units, Institutes and Departments of the University and their collaborative activity is showcased below:
Early detection of cancer research requires work on early disease biology to understand the initiation and transformation of cancer, but also incorporates cutting edge new technologies for cancer detection, cohort building alongside big data collation/interpretation and eventual economically viable clinical implementation of output within a health service. This can only be achieved by multidisciplinary collaboration. Examples of how Oxford researchers are working in this way can be found below:
- Computer algorithm aided analysis of endoscopic images and videos to enable earlier detection