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Southampton Clinical Trials Unit News

New mobile sampling unit takes research into the early detection of lung cancer out into the community

Published: 11 October 2021
iDx Lung mobile sampling unit

A ground-breaking research trial that aims to save lives by improving the early diagnosis of lung cancer is reaching more people thanks to a new mobile sample collection unit.

The iDx Lung trial 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 is piloting new diagnostic tests that aim to find ways to detect lung cancer at an early stage when it is more treatable.

People attending the NHS Targeted Lung Health Checks in Southampton, Portsmouth, Manchester and Yorkshire are being invited to take part in the trial, which will offer new types of tests to 7,000 people over the next 3 years.

Since the trial opened to recruitment in June, it has been taking place at the Royal South Hampshire Hospital where the NHS Targeted Lung Health Check vans have been parked. But now, the addition of a new mobile research sample collection unit means the trial team can move around the county reaching more people out in the community.

Professor Gareth Griffiths, Director of the Cancer Research UK Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, said:

“It’s absolutely fantastic because the NHS Targeted Lung Health Check has a large lorry with a CT scanner in the back of it, and when participants come in to have their scan, we are nowable to see those participants in our van. We collect samples and do nasal swabs to try, in the laboratories, to work out if we can detect lung cancer a lot earlier.

“That’s what we have to do with our Cancer Research UK-funded research. We need to go out to the community and try and detect cancer earlier because that's the way in which we are going to be able to beat cancer.”

The trial team are working alongside NHS England’s Targeted Lung Health Checks programme where people at high risk of lung cancer are invited to attend a CT scan in the mobile NHS scanning unit.

Michelle Male, Research Sister in cancer care at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and lead nurse on the iDx Lung trial, said:

“The van gives us the flexibility that we can follow the CT scanner. We’ve got two rooms now as opposed to one before, so we can hopefully recruit more patients. It’s a wider spread community that we can now go to and pick up more patients to take part in the iDx lung trial.”

iDx Lung mobile unit

Left: iDx Lung programme manager Jocelyn Walters and trial manager Darran Ball take delivery of the unit. Right: The iDx Lung team with the new mobile unit (from left to right): Senior clinical trials assistants Irene Woodford, Sarah Bowmer and Lillie Biddlecombe; Director of the SCTU Professor Gareth Griffiths; senior clinical trials assistant Nikki Carney, Research Sister Michelle Male; iDx Lung programme manager Jocelyn Walters.

The iDx Lung trial will ask 7,000 people who attend scans across Hampshire, Yorkshire and Manchester to also give a nasal swab and a blood sample. 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.

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.

Professor Peter Johnson, Director of the CRUK Southampton Centre and Chief Investigator of the iDx Lung 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 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.

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.

iDx Lung mobile unit alongside the CT scanner

The iDx Lung mobile research sample collection unit alongside the NHS Targeted Lung Health Checks mobile scanner at Chamberlayne Leisure Centre.

Watch Professor Gareth Griffiths and Michelle Male talk about the arrival of the new unit

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

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