Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
The University of Southampton
Southampton Clinical Trials Unit News

Researchers pilot new tests for the early detection of lung cancer, as ground-breaking trial gets underway in Southampton

Published: 11 June 2021
iDx Lung trial

The first participants have taken part in a ground-breaking research trial that aims to save lives by improving the early diagnosis of lung cancer. 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 7,000 people over the next three years.

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, and aims to find new ways to detect lung cancer at an early stage when it is more treatable.

Professor Peter Johnson, Chief Investigator of the 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.   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.”

The trial team are working alongside NHS England’s Targeted Lung Health Checks programme and the Yorkshire Cancer Research-funded 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 7,000 people who attend the scans to also give a nasal swab and a blood sample.

Victoria Goss, Programme Manager for iDx Lung at the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, said:

“These samples will 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.”

Brian Gray, 72, from Southampton, agreed to take part in the iDx Lung trial after being invited to the Targeted Lung Health Check.

“I came to the scan to find out what’s wrong with me,” says Brian, “and if there’s nothing, at least doing this will help someone else, which feels really good. I wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for at first, but the team explained everything to me really well. Having the samples taken was very straight-forward, no problems at all. So, if anyone else is invited to come along, don’t be worried by it.

“At my age I feel that being part of research is a good thing. If there’s anything in my body that can help someone else, then fair play!”

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.

Lillie Biddlecombe, a Senior Clinical Trials Assistant working on the iDx Lung trial, said:

“We’re already getting quite a few people through the door. People seem really happy to take part and feel like they are making a difference. For me as well, it’s really nice to be part of this research project, and many of the participants share a story about a family member who may have had cancer, so it’s good to hear how excited they are to help.”

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. Screening with CT scanning is being tested by the NHS and it is hoped the iDx Lung trial will not only drive up early detection rates but will find more cost-effective ways to diagnose the disease.

The trial is being funded by a £2.75m grant from UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) and £750,000 from Cancer Research UK and is part of a total investment of £10 million from the Government’s Early Diagnosis Mission.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Lung cancer remains one of Cancer Research UK’s cancers of unmet need, where 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, but combining CT screening with biomarker tests using blood and nasal samples may help to catch more cases of early stage disease, which can be easier to treat and we hope will lead to more people surviving their lung cancer.”

It's a real buzz to be involved in any kind of research, but especially something like the early detection of lung cancer, because you're not just helping one individual at that moment, you're potentially helping people in the future for generations to come.

Sarah Bowmer - Senior Clinical Trials Assistant

The research 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) who will carry out the laboratory analysis of the samples.

Clive Morris, CEO of Inivata, commented: “Inivata’s involvement in the iDx-Lung project highlights the potential of our liquid biopsy platform to detect ctDNA mutations with exceptional sensitivity. The recruitment of patients into the trial is a major milestone and we look forward to continuing to support the consortium as we develop further validation of our technology in the early detection of lung cancer and work together to improve survival rates.”

Nino da Silva, Deputy Managing Director of BC Platforms, commented: “We are proud to do our bit alongside prestigious global partners in the iDx Lung trial to better detect lung cancer earlier, through providing our discovery and research platform BC|INSIGHT. Our platform enables the analysis of real-time genetic test data to support clinical decision making, potentially diagnosing cancer even before it is visible on X-rays. This is another example of our software platform being used to more effectively save lives around the world, as we facilitate better use of research data in the UK, Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and elsewhere.”

Dr Adam M Hill, CEO of Oncimmune said: “Whilst the EarlyCDT Lung blood test has the highest level of evidence of a blood biomarker for early cancer detection, we remain committed to doing more; use of our product as part of the NHS Lung Health Check programme in Hampshire and Yorkshire, and working alongside Professor Johnson, his team and our collaborators, will undoubtedly help the clinical community better understand how to ultimately further improve patient outcomes.”

Ravinder Pabial, Business Development Manager, Roche Diagnostics UK and Ireland said: "For those living with cancer, and their families, time is everything. The earlier an accurate diagnosis can be made the more quickly patients receive the right treatment and the better their outcomes are likely to be. Collaboration and innovation are key to improving the early diagnosis of cancer and we are proud to be a partner in this important lung cancer trial."

Notes for editors

For more information on the NHS Targeted Lung Health Checks, visit

Southampton Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) is a Cancer Research UK core funded CTU support funded Clinical Trials Unit with expertise in coordinating well designed studies in cancer, early diagnosis and numerous others area. Based within the University of Southampton with offices at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust Southampton General Hospital site, Southampton CTU will work closely with the NHS England Health Lung Checks programme and industry and other partners to deliver the study.  For more information, please visit

The University of Southampton drives original thinking, turns knowledge into action and impact, and creates solutions to the world’s challenges. We are among the top 90 institutions globally (QS World University Rankings 2021) and top 15 in the UK (The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021). Our academics are leaders in their fields, inspiring a 22,000-strong community of exceptional students, from over 135 countries worldwide. As a founding member of the Russell Group, we are committed to using our knowledge to help shape economic, cultural and intellectual decisions, playing a part in researching solutions to national and global issues. The University works in partnership with other universities, businesses and charities to combine resources, in projects such as the £25m state-of-the-art Centre for Cancer Immunology. .

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.

·       Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.

·       Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.

·       Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.

·       Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.

·       Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit .

Yorkshire Cancer Research

·       Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). It is not part of a national charity.

·       Current statistics show that 592 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week.

·       The charity’s mission is for 2,000 more people to survive cancer every year in Yorkshire.

·       There are lots of cancer problems across Yorkshire that need to be tackled on a local level. Yorkshire Cancer Research works in partnership with researchers, clinicians, the NHS, public health bodies and other charities to fund innovative work in three key areas: prevention, early diagnosis and treatment.

·       For more information, please visit or follow the charity on Facebook or Twitter.

Southampton Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) is part if the UK ECMC network where world-leading scientists and clinicians drive the discovery, development and testing of new treatments to combat cancer. Southampton ECMC is internationally recognised for its expertise in delivery of early phase cancer studies and strong translational endpoint laboratory with a robust quality management system. For more information, visit the Southampton ECMC website.

The legal entity of the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson * is Johnson & Johnson Enterprise Innovation, Inc. The Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson (LCI) is dedicated to transforming the standard of care for this devastating disease. For more information visit the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson website .

Roche is a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people’s lives. Roche is the world’s largest biotech company, with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and diseases of the central nervous system. Roche is also the world leader in in vitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics, and a frontrunner in diabetes management. For more information, please visit .

Oncimmune is a leading immunodiagnostics developer, primarily focused on the growing fields of immuno-oncology, autoimmune disease and infectious diseases. EarlyCDT Lung is the world’s most thoroughly validated blood test for the detection of lung cancer and requires only a small volume of blood which can be taken using a test in the community setting as well as a doctor’s surgery. For more information, visit the Oncimmune website .

BC Platforms is a global leader in providing a powerful data and technology platform for personalised medicine, accelerating the translation of insights into clinical practice. Our technology drives the infinite loop between personalised care and research discoveries, leveraging latest science, deep technical expertise, strategic partnerships, and harmonised, diverse data collections. Our high performing genomic data discovery and analytics platform enables flexible data integration, secure analysis and interpretation of molecular and clinical information. For more information, please visit or follow us on Linkedin @BCPlatforms.

Inivata is a leader in liquid biopsy. Its InVision® platform unlocks essential genomic information from a simple blood draw to guide and personalize cancer treatment, monitor response and detect relapse. Inivata’s technology is based on pioneering research from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge. Its lead product, InVisionFirst®-Lung is commercially available and offers best-in-class sensitivity and turnaround, providing molecular insights that enable clinicians to make more informed treatment decisions for advanced NSCLC patients. For more information visit the Inivata website .

Privacy Settings