Early lung cancer diagnosis aims for new test

Professor Luis Mur

Professor Luis Mur

14 September 2023

Earlier detection of lung cancer could be possible thanks to a project led by Welsh scientists to develop a new rapid diagnostic kit.

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.

Applying Aberystwyth University research, the aim is 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.

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

Professor Luis Mur from Aberystwyth University commented:

“Lung cancer has a devastating impact on so many people and their loved ones. We hope that this important collaboration can apply the world-leading research here in Aberystwyth and make a real difference. Once the test is fully developed, we hope it can be used in GP surgeries or at home.

“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 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:

“This technology 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”.

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 is currently seeking funding from Innovate UK to produce these kits at scale in a new facility in south Wales.