Dr Sarah Bohndiek and Prof Rebecca Fitzgerald are to co-lead the Cambridge International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection Centre, part of a new transatlantic research alliance developing radical new strategies to detect cancer at its earliest stage.

The University of Cambridge will be a partner in a new transatlantic research alliance announced today to help more people beat cancer through early detection.

Cancer Research UK will invest up to £40 million over the next five years into the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED).

ACED is a partnership between Cancer Research UK, Canary Center at Stanford University, the University of Cambridge, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, UCL and The University of Manchester. Contributions from the Alliance’s US partners will take potential investment to more than £55 million.

This is the transatlantic partnership at its very best. Our brilliant scientists will be able to work together to develop detection technologies and implement them in our health service, so we can find cancer earlier and ultimately save people’s lives.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister

By combining the ‘fire power’ of some of the leading research institutions in the world in early detection, ACED will accelerate breakthroughs, leading to quicker benefits for patients.

A patient’s chance of surviving their disease improves dramatically when cancer is found and treated earlier.

Great strides have been made through existing screening programmes, such as for bowel, breast and cervical cancer, and increasing public awareness and GP urgent referral of patients with suspicious symptoms. However, for many cancer types no screening tools exist and new technologies for detecting cancer have been slow to emerge.

The Alliance will be a globally unique platform that is able to test and validate early detection innovations in real-world hospital and healthcare settings. The partners will engage with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the research field to ensure discoveries can achieve economies of scale and reach patients as soon as possible.

The Alliance will also be in a unique position to train and develop a new generation of early cancer detection research leaders, learning from the very best that both countries and all centres have to offer.

 


 Cambridge ACED centre

The Cambridge ACED centre will be lead by Dr Sarah Bohndiek and Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald. It is made up of 355 members from organisations that include The University of Cambridge, the Gurdon and Wellcome Sanger Institutes, and NHS Departments.

Dr Sarah Bohndiek,
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute

Prof Rebecca Fitzgerald
MRC Cancer Unit

 

Scientists will design, develop and deliver Clinical Infrastructure for Research in Early Detection (CuRED), a clinical facility that will enable early phase clinical trials of novel diagnostics. This will be key to test and validate early diagnostics and accelerate adoption of the most promising early detection approaches by doctors.  

In Cambridge we will work on essential clinical trials that will result in faster implementation of new early detection strategies and diagnostics,

Prof Rebecca Fitzgerald, MRC Cancer Unit, Cambridge ACED Centre co-lead

Ongoing research includes the development of sophisticated imaging tools to detect pre-cancerous lesions. These tools developed by ACED co-led Dr Sarah Bondiek, use the latest in military surveillance technology, for example, an advanced endoscope using ‘hyperspectral imaging’ to reveal a range of colours beyond our vision that could highlight the early signs of cancer in the food pipe and colon.

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, ACED co-lead at the University of Cambridge, said: “Early detection is an area of research that hasn’t been given the attention it deserves. This alliance will allow the field to gain momentum, so the sum of its members will be greater than its parts.

“In Cambridge we will work on essential clinical trials that will result in faster implementation of new early detection strategies and diagnostics, making a real difference to the lives of patients.”


 

The Alliance will accelerate research by uniting worldleading centres of excellence in early detection and bringing together cutting edge research, expertise and resources.

 

Understanding the biology of early cancers and pre-cancerous states will allow doctors to find accurate ways to spot the disease earlier and where necessary, treat it effectively. It could even enable ‘precision prevention’ – where the disease could be stopped from ever occurring in the first place.

UK statistics highlight the major improvements in survival that could be achieved.

Five-year survival for six different types of cancer is more than three times higher if the disease is diagnosed at stage one, when the tumour tends to be small and remains localised, compared with survival when diagnosed at stage four, when the cancer tends to be larger and has started to invade surrounding tissue and other organs.

It’s an area of research where we have the potential to completely change the future of cancer treatment, turning it into a manageable and beatable disease for more people.

Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive, Cancer Research UK

Advances in early detection technologies will help decrease late-stage diagnosis and increase the proportion of people diagnosed at an early and treatable stage, so a future for more patients can be secured.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Now is the time to be ambitious and develop effective ways to detect cancer earlier. It’s an area of research where we have the potential to completely change the future of cancer treatment, turning it into a manageable and beatable disease for more people.

“Real progress in early detection can’t be achieved by a single organisation. Benefits for patients will only be realised if early cancer detection leaders from around the world come together. No more siloes, no more missed opportunities; let us tackle this problem together and beat cancer.”

The Prime Minister said: “Every two minutes, someone in the UK has their world turned upside down when they are diagnosed with cancer. Thanks to the pioneering work of UK researchers and our world-beating NHS, more people are surviving than ever.

“However, there is more to do to detect and cure this disease earlier. That is why I am pleased to welcome this new UK-US alliance, driven by Cancer Research UK.

“This is the transatlantic partnership at its very best. Our brilliant scientists will be able to work together to develop detection technologies and implement them in our health service, so we can find cancer earlier and ultimately save people’s lives.”

Read more:

BBC – Scientists seek clues to how disease ‘is born’
Financial times – US-UK research study targets cancer at earliest stage
The Guardian – £55m Anglo-US research alliance to boost early cancer detection rates
Cambridge Independent – University of Cambridge involved in £55m transatlantic alliance to research early detection of cancer