Ground-breaking lung cancer trial gets under way

Health news

The first participants have taken part in a ground-breaking research trial that aims to save lives by improving the early diagnosis of lung cancer.

People attending lung health checks in Yorkshire and Hampshire are being invited to take part in the iDx Lung trial, which will offer new types of diagnostic tests to 10,000 people over the next three years. 

iDx Lung is a collaboration between the University of Leeds, the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Southampton, and healthcare and diagnostic companies, and aims to find new ways to detect lung cancer at an early stage when it is more treatable.

This work will help us to target those at most risk and diagnose the disease at an earlier and treatable stage.

Professor Richard Neal, School of Medicine

Richard Neal, Professor of Primary Care Oncology in the School of Medicine, and a GP in the city of Leeds, said: “We are delighted to be working on this important project with the University of Southampton, the NHS and industry partners.

“Lung cancer remains a huge problem as we continue to see it diagnosed at a very advanced stage, when curative treatments could have been possible. This work will help us to target those at most risk and diagnose the disease at an earlier and treatable stage.”

Peter Johnson, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Southampton and Chief Investigator of the trial, said: “We know that lung cancer can be treated successfully if we catch it early, but too often it can go unnoticed and is then picked up at a late stage when treatment options are more limited.

“By bringing some of the latest molecular technology to this problem, we hope that we can find better ways to detect lung cancer in its early stages and make sure people have the best chance of a cure.”

Early diagnosis 

The trial team are working alongside NHS England’s Targeted Lung Health Checks programme and the Yorkshire Cancer Research-funded Leeds Lung Health Check, where people at high risk of lung cancer are being invited to attend a CT scanning unit. The iDx Lung trial will ask 10,000 people who attend the scans to also give a nasal swab and a blood sample. 

Victoria Goss, Programme Manager for iDx lung at the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, said: “These samples will be analysed for changes that could indicate the early signs of cancer developing.

“The aim is to determine whether using simple biological tests alongside the Targeted Lung Health Check programme can help increase diagnosis rates in people who have early signs of lung cancer, so they can begin treatment quickly when it is far more likely to be successful.” 

Brian Gray, 72, from Southampton, agreed to take part in the iDx Lung trial after being invited to the Hampshire NHS Targeted Lung Health Check. 

He said: “I came to the scan to find out what’s wrong with me, and if there’s nothing, at least doing this will help someone else, which feels really good.

“I wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for at first, but the team explained everything to me really well. Having the samples taken was very straight-forward, no problems at all. So, if anyone else is invited to come along, don’t be worried about it at all.

“At my age I feel that being part of research is a good thing. If there’s anything in my body that can help someone else, then that’s great.”

Saving lives 

Every year in the UK, 25,000 people are diagnosed with advanced, inoperable lung cancer, making it the biggest cause of cancer death in the UK and worldwide. Screening with CT scanning is being tested by the NHS and it is hoped the iDx Lung trial will not only drive up early detection rates but will find more cost-effective ways to diagnose the disease.

The trial is being funded by a £2.75m grant from UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) and £750,000 from Cancer Research UK and is part of a total investment of £10 million from the Government’s Early Diagnosis Mission.

In Yorkshire, the iDx Lung trial is being supported by Yorkshire Cancer Research. Chief Executive Dr Kathryn Scott said: “In Yorkshire, lung cancer incidence and mortality rates are significantly higher than the England average.

"The Leeds Lung Health Check, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, has checked thousands of people in the city for early signs of the disease through screening.

"These patients will now have the opportunity to take part in additional tests using cutting-edge technology that can find cancer at an even earlier stage than screening.

"Bringing pioneering trials like iDx Lung to Yorkshire is a key part of the charity’s aim to save lives in our region.”

Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Lung cancer remains one of Cancer Research UK’s cancers of unmet need, where survival has improved very little over the last 40 years despite continuous research efforts.

“Trials have shown that CT scanning people at increased risk of developing the disease can reduce lung cancer deaths, but combining CT screening with biomarker tests using blood and nasal samples may help to catch more cases of early stage disease, which can be easier to treat and we hope will lead to more people surviving their lung cancer.”


The research collaborators for the trial include Roche Diagnostics, Oncimmune, Inivata, BC Platforms, the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson, and the Southampton Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) who will carry out the laboratory analysis of the samples.

Clive Morris, CEO of Inivata, said: “Inivata’s involvement in the iDx-Lung project highlights the potential of our liquid biopsy platform to detect ctDNA mutations with exceptional sensitivity.

“The recruitment of patients into the trial is a major milestone and we look forward to continuing to support the consortium as we develop further validation of our technology in the early detection of lung cancer and work together to improve survival rates.” 

Nino da Silva, Deputy Managing Director of BC Platforms, commented: “We are proud to do our bit alongside prestigious global partners in the iDx Lung trial to better detect lung cancer earlier, through providing our discovery and research platform BC|INSIGHT.

"Our platform enables the analysis of real-time genetic test data to support clinical decision making, potentially diagnosing cancer even before it is visible on X-rays. This is another example of our software platform being used to more effectively save lives around the world, as we facilitate better use of research data in the UK, Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and elsewhere.”

Dr Adam M Hill, CEO of Oncimmune said: “Whilst the EarlyCDT Lung blood test has the highest level of evidence of a blood biomarker for early cancer detection, we remain committed to doing more.

"Use of our product as part of the NHS Lung Health Check programme in Hampshire and Yorkshire, and working alongside Professor Johnson, his team and our collaborators, will undoubtedly help the clinical community better understand how to ultimately further improve patient outcomes.”

Ravinder Pabial, Business Development Manager, Roche Diagnostics UK and Ireland said: "For those living with cancer, and their families, time is everything.

"The earlier an accurate diagnosis can be made, the more quickly patients receive the right treatment and the better their outcomes are likely to be.

"Collaboration and innovation are key to improving the early diagnosis of cancer and we are proud to be a partner in this important lung cancer trial."

Further information

Picture: Adobe Stock

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