NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre
Our Research: Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

Detecting Cancer Early Priority Setting Partnership

Between June 2018 and September 2019, we asked cancer patients, their carers and families, academics and healthcare professionals what they felt were the top priorities for future research into detecting cancer sooner.

Early detection and prevention is crucial if we are to improve outcomes from cancer. However it is recognised there needs to be a major shift in research in this area if we are to effectively address the changing epidemiology of people developing cancer and living longer.

The aim of this research was to draw up a ‘Top Ten’ list of questions which address areas with little or no existing research, which could be help prioritise the efforts of future cancer researchers, funding bodies and the biotechnology industry.

A key strength was to reach a consensus between what researchers and academics are currently working on  and the top priorities of healthcare professionals, patients and others affected by cancer.

The Top 10 Research Priorities for Detecting Cancer Early

The final Top 10 priorities were published in The Lancet Public Health in September 2019.

Image listing the Top 10 Research Priorities for Detecting Cancer Early. Website link: www.bit.ly/cancersurveymcr, Twitter: @EarlyPSP. The Top 10. 1.	What simple, non-invasive, painless, cost-effective and convenient tests can be used to detect cancer early? 2.	Can a blood test be used to detect some or all cancers early and how can this test be included into routine patient care? 3.	Would increasing access to tests to diagnose a cancer within General Practices (GPs) improve rates of detecting cancer early, and is this cost effective? 4.	What cultural, religious, gender (including transgender) and behavioural issues (including stigma associated with illness) prevent a person from reporting early symptoms of cancer? 5.	How can genetic testing be effectively used to identify individuals at risk of developing cancer? 6.	Can we use a cancer-relevant diagnostic tool (e.g. reminders in medical records) to help recognise patients presenting on multiple occasions with similar symptoms? 7.	Can effective screening tests be developed for cancers we don't currently screen for e.g. lymphoma, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer? 8.	Can we use data from patients who have already been diagnosed with cancer, to look for early warning signs that might have been missed or not investigated appropriately at first appointment? 9.	What is the best way to coordinate information between different healthcare sectors and healthcare professionals to improve the early detection of cancer 10.	Can we predict how a tumour develops more accurately and would this help to reduce unnecessary investigations and treatment (i.e. overdiagnosis)?

How we developed the Top 10

The research was led by Professors Andrew Renehan, Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Deputy Theme Lead, and Emma Crosbie, Early Detection Programme Lead, in collaboration with The University of Manchester and The James Lind Alliance. A steering group made up of researchers, healthcare professionals, cancer patients and carers was created to oversee the work .

An online public survey was carried out between December 2018 and February 2019, asking what people felt was important to them in cancer early detection, which received over 1300 responses. The responses were grouped into 54 questions across a range of topics, and checked to see whether there was existing research already published.

A second online survey between July and August 2019 then asked participants were asked to choose which ten questions from this list were most important to them. We had 241 responses, from which the steering group chose the 26 most important questions  to both patients and healthcare professionals.

This shortlist was taken to a facilitated workshop in September 2019, where an equal panel of researchers, healthcare professionals, cancer patients and carers, discussed and decided on the final Top 10.

We hope the questions in the Top 10 will inform future directions with funders of research and will drive researchers to consider these as priorities alongside their own research plans.

Further information about this research

This researched used a Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) methodology from the internationally-recognised James Lind Alliance. A PSP aims to bring together patients, carers and healthcare professionals to jointly identify priorities for research.

The study was run in collaboration with the NIHR Manchester BRC, The University of Manchester and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust. Updates throughout the study can be found on Twitter @EarlyPSP.

Detecting Cancer Early Research Priorities Survey

The project steering group was comprised of patient representatives, researchers and healthcare professionals. It was approved by The University of Manchester’s Research Ethics Committee (reference number: 2018-4400-7542).

For more information about this work, please contact:

Dr Ellena Badrick

Survey Project Manager & Cancer Data Scientist


0161 918 2349