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NHS Cancer Programme awards £12.1 million to accelerate new front-line innovations that detect and diagnose cancer earlier

28 April 2023

The NHS Cancer Programme, supported by SBRI Healthcare and the Accelerated Access Collaborative has awarded £12.1 million to six innovations that improve the early detection and diagnosis of cancer.  

The innovations utilise the latest technologies and complement existing processes, while enhancing efficiency, coordination and communication throughout the diagnosis pathway.  

They include a pathway to enable more genetic testing of people at high risk of breast cancer, a multi-layered digital approach to increase the early detection of bowel cancer, and innovations that support the early detection and diagnosis of skin, liver, ovarian and esophageal cancers. 

The 'Innovation Open call' was developed and led by the NHS Cancer Programme, supported by SBRI Healthcare and the Accelerated Access Collaborative to ensure the practical translation of leading research and innovation and, through 18 months of funding, fast-track high quality, developed innovations into front-line settings.   

All of the innovations have proven their efficacy and clinical effectiveness and are ready for real world testing and roll out to improve the outcomes of patients.  

In 2019, just over 50% (54.5%) of staged cancers were diagnosed at stage one or two.  

The call specifically looked for approaches and products in the late stages of development that will increase the proportion of cancers that are diagnosed at stage one or two and welcomed creative, future-proof innovations including medical devices, in vitro diagnostics, digital health solutions, behaviour interventions, software, artificial intelligence, and new models of care.  

The call was open to single organisations based in the UK or EU from the private, public and third sectors, including companies, charities, universities and NHS providers. 

The call supports the NHS Core20PLUS5 initiative to reduce health inequalities, and the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP). The LTP was published in January 2019 and set out stretching ambitions and commitments to improve cancer outcomes and services in England over the next ten years. The key ambitions in the NHS LTP for cancer are:

  • by 2028, 55,000 more people each year will survive their cancer for five years or more; and\
  • by 2028, 75% of people with cancer will be diagnosed at an early stage (stage one or two). 

This was the second call. The first, in February 2022, announced £9 million of funding for eight high potential innovations.

The innovations were chosen by a panel of clinical, implementation and industry experts with representation from patients and the public. 

The awarded innovations are:  

Cyted -- awarded £3,352,261 -- Project CYTOPRIME2: Earlier Oesophageal Cancer Detection in Primary Care 

This non-endoscopic test for the earlier detection of oesophageal cancer is transforming the care pathway for people living with chronic reflux. Project CYTOPRIME2 will test patients at risk of cancer in primary and community care across the East of England, North West Coast and Wessex Cancer Alliance regions. 

Institute of Cancer Research -- awarded £1,902,636 -- BRCA-DIRECT: A digital pathway for germline genetic testing in women with breast cancer 

BRCA-DIRECT is an efficient NHS-embedded end-to-end clinical workflow involving a digital platform, saliva-sample postal pathway and genetic counsellor telephone hotline, the implementation of which means more patients with cancer can benefit from genetic testing for high-risk cancer genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2. 

iPLATO Healthcare -- awarded £1,669,274 -- Democratising Cancer Screening Uptake  

In partnership with Southeast London Cancer Alliance, iPLATO are aiming to increase early detection of Bowel Cancer, with a particular focus on engaging with ethnic minority communities. Using a multi-layered digital approach, cohorts such as those with protected characteristics, or social exclusion will be invited digitally with supporting educational content. 

Modality LLP -- awarded £2,034,350 -- Using a Novel Biomarker Approach to Transform Ovarian Cancer Diagnostic Pathways 

A new diagnostic pathway for primary & secondary care using an algorithm that combines He4 and CA125 tests & evidence-based numerical thresholds to guide referral decisions. The aim of this project is to improve quality of life and save lives through early diagnosis of ovarian cancer. 

Skin Analytics -- awarded £2,157,038 -- Streamlining Early Diagnostic Skin Cancer Assessments in the Community using a Class II UKCA-Certified Artificial Intelligence Medical Device 

Skin Analytics' Class II UKCA-Certified Artificial Intelligence Medical Device can support the assessment of skin lesions where there is a suspicion of skin cancer. This technology will be deployed in Community Diagnostic Hubs in pathways co-created with three NHS partners to support faster skin cancer detection and pathway conversion rates. 

The University of Manchester / Roche Diagnostics Limited -- awarded £1,006,075 -- Implementation of Elecsys® GAAD clinical algorithm for the early detection of Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) in routine practice 

This 18-month project will explore the use of an innovative solution, called Elecsys®GAAD, to improve early Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) detection. Elecsys®GAAD is a fully regulated, accurate test that combines blood tests with gender and age. If raised, it can suggest the presence of HCC. It will be used alongside routine surveillance tests to see if it can help in finding HCC earlier so patients have the best chance of surviving this cancer. 

About the NHS Cancer Programme
The NHS Cancer Programme leads the delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan ambitions for cancer. More information about the work of the programme can be found through the latest quarterly report which summarises the key achievements and milestones. 

About SBRI Healthcare
SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) Healthcare is an Accelerated Access Collaborative funded initiative that provides funding to innovators to develop solutions that tackle existing unmet needs faced by the NHS. The programme aims to improve patient care, increase efficiency in the NHS, and support the UK economy. The SBRI Healthcare team, through support from the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), works closely with clinicians and frontline NHS staff to identify key challenges from within the service, focusing on specific areas recognised as priority by NHS England. 

About the Accelerated Access Collaborative
The Accelerated Access Collaborative is a unique partnership between patient groups, government bodies, industry and the NHS. It delivers ambitious programmes to ensure the NHS is in the best place to improve patient outcomes and reduce health inequalities through research and innovation. It does this by identifying the best new medicines, medical devices, diagnostics and digital products. It supports providers and integrated care systems to make them available to patients as quickly as possible. In addition, the AAC supports increasing participation in research and access to research trials. Over 1.6 million patients have benefited from its programmes to date, helping patients spend over 278,000 fewer days in hospital and saving the NHS over £185 million.


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