Research will help GPs detect cancer

Health news

Researchers at the University of Leeds are to receive a share of £5m in funding from Cancer Research UK to improve early cancer detection in GP surgeries.

The CanTest project is part of a successful Cancer Research UK Catalyst Award, which aims to help researchers deliver trailblazing progress in their field with long-lasting results.

The CanTest team in Leeds, led by Professor Richard Neal, will work with researchers in three other major UK Universities as well as institutions across the world on a five-year project to help GPs detect cancers in a primary care setting and reduce the burden of referrals.

This research will prioritise "difficult-to-diagnose" cancers, which are also associated with poorer survival outcomes, and will look at both existing and new technologies.

Prof Neal, lead researcher and Professor of Primary Care Oncology in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, said: “This research has patients at its heart. Cancer diagnosis needs to be improved and new and better cancer testing is central to this. 

"I’m a GP myself and I know how difficult diagnosing cancer can be, and the difficulties that some patients have in getting a prompt diagnosis.

"Getting the right patient tested with the right test at the right time in the right setting should produce major benefits to patients and the NHS.

"This will include reducing the burden of referrals from primary to secondary care.  It also should allow quicker diagnosis where cancer is present and peace of mind where it isn’t."

Prof Neal, who spends one day a week as a practising GP in Leeds, is now in the early stage of recruiting three researchers to join his CanTest team in Leeds.

"We will also be setting up a sustainable International School for developing and optimising cancer detection in primary care, plus a considerably strengthened and younger research workforce in this area, which will train and support a new generation of scientists in this field," he added.

The project also involves the University of Cambridge, University College London and the University of Exeter, as well as several international institutions.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: "This collaboration will help us discover new and more effective ways to diagnose cancer by applying different methods to GP surgeries, and finding out what really works for them on the job.

"By investing in future experts in this field, it will allow us to continue searching for the best way to diagnose cancer patients for many years to come.

"This has potential not only to save GPs’ and patients’ time, but also to reduce the anxiety patients feel when waiting for their results."

Further information

To interview Professor Richard Neal, contact Sophie Freeman in the University of Leeds press office on 0113 343 8059, or email