Policy Research Unit in Cancer Awareness, Screening and Early Diagnosis

The Policy Research Unit in Cancer Awareness, Screening and Early Diagnosis is funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme. The Unit has an eight-year programme to research policy issues in the three broad areas of cancer awareness, cancer screening, and early diagnosis of cancer, to inform policies for improving stage at presentation of cancer and thus reducing mortality from the disease.

The Unit is a collaboration of 13 leading scientists from seven institutions, with Stephen Duffy of Queen Mary, University of London as director, Rosalind Raine of University College, London as deputy director and Peter Sasieni of Queen Mary, University of London as vice director. Until her tragic death in 2015, our dear colleague Jane Wardle was deputy director. The Unit partners are also involved with other national and international initiatives annd bodies focussed on early diagnosis of cancer, including The International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/data-and-statistics/international-cancer-benchmarking-partnership-icbp), the National Screening Committee and the advisory committees for the breast, bowel and cervical screening programmes (http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/).

Major areas of activity of the Unit include:

• Studies of the predictive value of symptoms for cancer, and of response of GP’s to symptoms

• Identification of the risk factors for late stage or emergency presentation of cancer

• Evaluation of interventions to promote awareness and help-seeking for symptoms

• Evaluation of the benefits and harms of the national screening programmes for breast, bowel and cervical cancer

• Identifying barriers to participation in cancer screening and researching policies to improve access

• Investigation of potential early markers of cancer and new screening tests

For many cancers, there is a strong relationship between survival and the extent to which the cancer has been allowed to grow before diagnosis. Our ultimate aim is to shift cancers from late stage, poor survival, to early stage, excellent survival.