An illustration showing aspects of the iDx trial

Credit: Southampton Clinical Trials Unit

The first participants have taken part in a new research trial that aims to save lives by detecting lung cancer at an earlier stage when it is more treatable.

People attending the NHS Targeted Lung Health Checks in Southampton are being invited to take part in the iDx Lung trial, which will offer new types of tests to 10,000 people over the next 3 years.

Part-funded by Cancer Research UK, iDx Lung is a collaboration between the Cancer Research UK Southampton Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Southampton, the University of Leeds and healthcare and diagnostic companies.

The trial is currently taking place at the Royal South Hants Hospital, but in the autumn it will move to a mobile unit which can travel around the county with the NHS Targeted Lung Health Check vans.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said that lung cancer is a priority for the charity, as 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 and combining CT screening with biomarker tests and using blood and nasal samples, it may help to catch more cases at an early stage of the disease, which can be easier to treat. We hope this will lead to more people surviving their lung cancer.”

Detecting lung cancer earlier

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.

Professor Peter Johnson, Director of the CRUK Southampton Centre and Chief Investigator of 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 limited.”

Screening with CT scanning is already being tested by the NHS, but the iDx Lung team hope that they will be able to not only increase the number of people diagnosed earlier, but find more cost-effective ways to do so.

Harnessing the latest technology

The trial team are working alongside NHS England’s Targeted Lung Health Checks programme and 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 Cancer Research UK Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, said that these samples will then 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 with the very early signs of lung cancer, so they can begin treatment quickly when it is far more likely to be successful.”

The samples will be analysed by a number of companies testing out some of their latest technologies to find the best way to detect lung cancer at an early stage.

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).

“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,” said Johnson.

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