Cambridge researchers outline their vision for early cancer detection

What does the early detection clinic of the future look like?

An article by Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald and colleagues from the University of Cambridge, published in Nature Medicine, reviews the latest advances in early cancer detection and considers future strategies that take a proactive approach to personalised, risk-based screening.

Early detection strategies have enormous potential to make a difference to inequities in cancer care around the globe. The article explains that to reduce the burden of cancer on society, risk-based detection and prevention needs to be cost effective and widely accessible to all.

"To have the desired impact on individuals and on society, early detection of cancer must be available to all and must be integrated into healthcare systems."

The article is part of a Focus Issue in Nature Medicine, dedicated to 'The Future of Cancer Research', which takes stock of progress and explores ways to deliver research and care that is innovative, sustainable, and patient-focused.

The authors first consider who should be tested, comparing a one-size-fits-all approach with a system in which the testing options differ according to an individual’s risk. They then discuss how these tests might be carried out, including sampling of a specific tissue and liquid-based approaches that can detect multiple cancers from a single test. They consider how imaging, sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) might in the future detect abnormalities in real time with minimal effort from the individual. Finally, from a clinical perspective, they examine how healthcare systems can embrace an era of personalized, risk-based detection and prevention of cancer in a manner that is cost effective and widely accessible.

'The future of early cancer detection' was published in Springer Medicine on 19 April 2022.

Authors: Fitzgerald RC, Antoniou AC, Fruk L, Rosenfeld N

Nat Med 28, 666–677 (2022). doi.org/10.1038/s41591-022-01746-x