Early Detection

What is early detection?

  • Early detection is the detection of cancer at the earliest possible stage, when the disease is easiest to treat.
  • Early 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.
  • Cancers can be detected earlier through a number of approaches, including screening programmes across the population, surveillance of people with high-risk conditions and 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.
  • The chance of survival is higher for early stage cancers but currently, nearly half of all cancers in England are diagnosed at an advanced stage.
  • Our research aims to help identify cancers earlier so that more patients can benefit from treatment which is likely to cure them, with fewer adverse side effects, and a reduction in the economic burden of advanced cancer.

Early detection research in Oxford

The Oxford Centre for Early Cancer Detection (OxCODE) brings together high calibre multi-disciplinary early cancer detection researchers from across Oxford to collaborate and maximise research outputs in this area. OxCODE’s vision is to harness our existing strengths and expertise to generate a Quantitative Risk Score – the ‘Oxford QR code’– an integrated multi-parameter readout to stratify an individual’s risk of developing malignant cancer. This will enable early detection with accompanying prognostic information for patient benefit.

For more information about Oxford’s early cancer detection research, see the Oxford Centre for Early Cancer Detection website.

The Oxford Centre for Early Cancer Detection welcomes members from across the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals Trust. If you wish to join the OxCODE mailing list to hear about future events and funding opportunities, please email.

More Early Detection research in Oxford:

An animated drawing of the DNA double helix on a background of DNA sequence (a, c, g, t)

Developing a system to simultaneously detect genetic and epigenetic information

Dr Benjamin Schuster-Böckler wins funding to develop algorithms that can identify both genetic variation and DNA methylation from the same sequencing data, with applications in biomedical research and detection of diseases such as cancer.

Finding extracellular vesicle biomarkers for oesophageal cancer early detection

Prof Deborah Goberdhan’s lab is investigating extracellular vesicles and the proteins they express as potential biomarkers for the progression from Barrett’s Oesophagus to oesophageal cancer

Detecting for multiple cancers in one simple test

Prof. Jason Davis is working alongside clinicians to introduce his biomarker assays into the clinic. Using a range of electroanalytical methods, together with electrode arrays and microfluidics, the platform has the potential to test for many types of cancers all at once, and at an earlier, pre-symptomatic stage.
A molecule of DNA with a radiating light representing mutation

Understanding how inherited and acquired mutations interact to affect cancer

Development fund awardee Gareth Bond is investigating how different types of genetic mutations cooperate to influence cancer risk, progression and response to therapy

Studying viral genetics to aid liver cancer early detection

Professor Ellie Barnes and Dr Azim Ansari receive funding to identify cancer-associated strains of hepatitis C in Pakistan to improve assessment of liver cancer risk

Understanding how cancer arises from infected tissue

Dr Francesco Boccellato is investigating the mechanisms behind the pre-cancerous condition known as atrophic gastritis. This may help to identify those who may have cancer, as well as find new ways to prevent cancer from progressing

Detecting myeloma earlier

Several research projects are underway in Oxford focusing on different points in the clinical care pathway to improve myeloma early detection.
The NMR machine in the lab of James Larkins, with samples lined up to be analysed

Following the cancer metabolomic breadcrumb trail

By analysing the metabolic molecules that tumour cells leave behind, Dr James Larkin is investigating the applications of metabolomics in the early detection of many cancers.
National Foundation for Cancer Research

Investigating the effects of co-morbidities on liver cancer risk

Dr Philippa Matthews and colleagues review the associations between liver cancer risk and co-morbidities and other metabolic factors in individuals with chronic hepatitis B virus infection.