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NIHR grant received for testing of cancer diagnostic tools

Posted on December 8th 2016

A team of researchers, including members of PenCLAHRC, have received  £240,880 of funding from the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme (NIHR HTA) for a new project looking to understand the efficacy, cost-effectiveness and current use of cancer diagnostic tools to aid decision-making in primary care.

For many types of cancer, survival is lower in the UK than for most European countries. Diagnostic tools that can predict the risk of cancer in patients with symptoms have been developed and are available for GPs to use in clinical practice. However, there are no summaries of the evidence on whether using these tools improves patient quality of life or survival, and what impact their use might have on NHS resources.

To fill this knowledge gap, the team aims to find out whether GPs have access to these tools and how widely they are used, to evaluate the impact of these tools on the timing of cancer diagnosis, as well as the extent and severity of cancer at diagnosis, and patients’ quality of life and survival. They will also look at what the impact could be on NHS resources, for example, whether the use of these tools leads to an increase in hospital referrals, or a greater number of tests and investigations being carried out.

Researchers from PenCLAHRC, working with colleagues from the University of Exeter Medical School and Bangor University, will use systematic review methods to identify and evaluate related published and unpublished studies. They will then create a computer-based simulation model to gauge the impact of using these tools both in the short term, such as quicker cancer diagnoses, and the long term, such as improved quality of life or probability of survival.

Essential to this project will be the involvement of patients and the public. By ensuring the study is informed by patients’ perspectives throughout, the reviews and simulation model will capture patient-relevant outcomes.

This research project has the opportunity to positively impact three different aspects of health care:

  • reflecting on current practice may help focus measures for improving the management of cancer patients in primary care;
  • more effectively identifying patients requiring critical care could contribute to the optimisation of health resources use, and;
  • patients may expand their understanding and expectations by discussing their condition earlier.

Prof Christopher Hyde, Theme Lead for Diagnostics and Stratified Medicine at PenCLAHRC said:

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to advance the important work which has been going on in Exeter to improve assessment of risk of cancer by general practitioners”.

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