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Charity launches £5m research grant to improve GP cancer diagnostics

A leading charity is putting £5m into developing new and improved diagnostic tests that GPs can use to help speed up cancer diagnoses.

Cancer Research UK said its CanTest project will assess a range of methods and tools for GPs ‘as a way to lower diagnostic waiting times and reduce the burden of referrals’.

The charity told Pulse the project will start with existing imaging and blood tests for cancers and move on to developing new diagnostic approaches – including AI technology.

While the project is open to ideas for improving detection of any cancer in primary care, the research leaders are particularly keen to improve tests for ‘hard to diagnose’ diseases such as intra-abdominal cancers and myeloma, as well as cancers with poor prognoses.

Project co-lead Professor Willie Hamilton, professor of primary care diagnostics at University of Exeter, said: ‘As a GP myself, I know that it can be frustrating to wait weeks for results before making any decisions for my patients.

‘We’re trying to reduce this time by assessing ways that GPs could carry out these tests by themselves as long as it’s safe and sensible to do so.

‘We’re open to assessing many different tests, and we’re excited to hear from potential collaborators.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘GPs are already doing great work appropriately referring patients with suspected cancer – but access to any new or improved diagnostic tools would potentially be of huge benefit to family doctors and our patients, so the research that this grant will fund is incredibly important.’

She added: ‘Giving GPs direct, rapid access to diagnostic tools is something that the RCGP has long been calling for, and we’re pleased to be continuing our work with Cancer Research UK in an area which could make a real difference to our patients’ lives.’