Improving the translation of early detection and diagnosis cancer research for better patient outcomes

The Academy and Cancer Research UK are working together to address the challenges facing emerging early detection and diagnosis approaches and technologies. Today we have published the summary report from a FORUM workshop that established priorities for the translation and implementation of these technologies in the healthcare system.

The challenge

There are still only two widely used bloodborne cancer biomarkers in primary care – these are same markers that were in use 25 years ago. This highlights how challenging the pathway from basic science and early detection research through to development of diagnostic technologies and implementation in the healthcare system is.

The NHS has well-established infrastructure and support for the translation of new therapeutics and disease management techniques into practice. However, the translational pathway for promising novel cancer detection and diagnostic technologies is poorly defined and researchers often find it hard to navigate in this space.

Addressing these issues will require buy-in and commitment from stakeholders across multidisciplinary fields.

Our workshop

We held a FORUM workshop with Cancer Research UK in February 2018. The workshop brought together over 60 participants from across the sectors involved in the development of detection and diagnosis technologies, including representation from academia, industry, patients, regulators, funders, commissioners and healthcare professionals.


Participants at the workshop proposed a number of priority areas for early detection and diagnosis research:

  • To improve the evidence generation of early detection and diagnosis research:
  1. A national repository of longitudinal samples linked to clinical data, to be made available for the discovery and validation of novel diagnostic assays.
  2. Researchers should develop ‘target product profiles’ for emerging technologies to ensure there is a clear clinical need, defined performance and health economic characteristics.
  • To support the planning and delivery of clinical trials for diagnostics, we need infrastructure for the clinical evaluation of diagnostic tests to provide a stable platform of expertise to accelerate progression to the clinic, equivalent to a Clinical Trials Unit (CTU).
  • To improve the outcomes of screening trials, researchers should risk-stratify populations to increase surveillance of those that benefit from it and decrease surveillance of those that do not.
  • Dedicated health service planners to recognise the real cost-saving benefits of early detection and diagnostic technologies, which are often only evident over a long term, when assessing the economic rationale for adoption of new diagnostics.
  • System change in the NHS to focus more on early detection and diagnosis, rather that treatment, in order to fully capitalise on the disruptive potential of novel cancer diagnostic technologies.
  • The development of a roadmap for the translation of early detection and diagnosis tests, as a resource to support researchers through the various stages, and guidelines for evidence generation, diagnostic development, clinical evaluation, and economic viability.

This meeting took place on 7 February 2018, and was by invitation only. The report of this workshop has now been published and can be found on the right hand side of this page. To find out more about this event, please contact the FORUM team at

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