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£1 million for early lung cancer diagnosis test research

Aberystwyth University

Scientists’ work to develop a new rapid diagnostic kit to detect lung cancer has received a £1 million grant boost.

Lung cancer affects almost 50,000 people a year in the UK, kills more people than any other cancer and costs the NHS more than £2.4bn a year.

Diagnosis of the disease in the early stages is challenging, since clinical symptoms only occur if the tumour is very large or has spread outside the lung.

Surgery is only possible in about one in eight people, with the vast majority offered treatments to alleviate their incurable disease.

The scientists aim to develop a test to quickly identify people most likely to benefit from scanning.

The work is part of a partnership between UK companies the Life Science Group, Highfield Diagnostics, ProTEM Services and Valley Diagnostics along with Hywel Dda University Health Board and Aberystwyth University.

The new funding from Innovate UK, will mean the team can apply Aberystwyth University research to develop a new multi-screen test kit that could identify cancer biomarkers, or tiny chemicals, present in urine.

The six biomarkers can diagnose lung cancer with 90% accuracy and at very early stages, before the onset of clinical symptoms.

Professor Luis Mur from Aberystwyth University commented:

“This new funding is a big boost to the work of the team. Lung cancer has a devastating impact on so many people and their loved ones. The team here have already identified biomarkers in urine that can diagnose a number of other cancers and diseases. It can also identify what stage the disease has reached in a patient.  We hope that this important collaboration can apply the world-leading research here in Aberystwyth and make a real difference.

“We hope that by continuing to work in partnership we can develop a range of these novel diagnostic tests over the years ahead. Our aim is that they will diagnose and monitor the progression, location and efficacy of a large variety of diseases and cancers. We are looking forward to these leading to rapid, cost-effective and accurate diagnosis of a number of conditions both in GP surgeries and at home.”

Jenny Murray, Managing Director of Life Science Group and Project Lead said:

“We’re proud to be part of this consortium of independent companies in the UK developing this technology for the benefit of the UK. This pioneering work has the potential to revolutionise diagnostic testing here in the UK and globally, particularly in countries where the availability of diagnostic centres is limited.

“The team are confident that this device, and the others that will follow, will not only save lives, but demonstrate significant savings in the NHS, redevelop the diagnostic pathway and generate employment in Wales and revenue for the UK as a whole”.

Alex Sklan, Innovation Lead, Data to Early Diagnosis & Precision Medicine at Innovate UK, said: “Innovate UK provides support to projects with the potential to enable more of us to live longer, healthier lives. One of the ways this can be done is through diagnosing diseases earlier, as is the case with this project. With this investment, we are helping to accelerate the development of a test that could save many lives.”

The test, which is at an early stage of development, would be designed to be easy to use and adopt the lateral flow method that became familiar during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The collaboration between Welsh academics, UK commercial partners and several hospitals in Wales has received the new funding from Innovate UK’s Advancing Precision Medicine programme, including funding from the Office of Life Sciences. The partners also aim produce the diagnostic kits at scale in a new facility in south Wales.