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Early Cancer Detection Consortium

cancer cells

Early cancer diagnosis leads to better outcomes for the vast majority of patients with cancer. Existing screening programmes search for cancers of one particular type. However, the biology of cancer is reflected in the blood, suggesting a blood-based screening test for multiple cancer types could be developed. This could revolutionise cancer screening and significantly improve early detection.

The Early Cancer Detection Consortium brings together expertise from many disciplines to conduct the studies necessary to develop blood-based testing for multiple cancer types.


We have recently been funded by Cancer Research UK to undertake two systematic reviews to answer the following questions:

  • What technologies exist that could be used for general cancer screening from a repeated blood sampling on a yearly basis, and what is their state of development? What are the optimal sample types and sample storage conditions for the study? How might these be measured in NHS practice and at what cost?
  • What are the population and individual considerations for implementation and what would prospective patients find acceptable?

This will give us the basis to start to evaluate multiple screening technologies between and within consortium laboratories for their robustness and ability to be translated to NHS pathology to establish their analytical validity. We will then conduct a prospective pre-cancer diagnosis longitudinal cohort study, collecting blood samples within multiple centres at yearly intervals for application of evaluated screening tests to allow their direct comparison.

The ultimate goal is to produce a strategy for generic cancer screening that can go into clinical practice. This is likely to take the form of a single blood sample on which multiple tests can be done, depending on the results of initial screens.

Diagram showing proposed screening procedure for early cancer detection

Funded by Cancer Research UK

Consortium Members

The consortium has members from the following University partners:

  • University of Cambridge
  • Coventry University
  • Dublin
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Lancaster University
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Manchester
  • Middlesex University
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Portsmouth
  • Queen Mary University London
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of St Andrews
  • University College London
  • University of Warwick