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Southampton Clinical Trials UnitNews

7,000 people take part in a ground-breaking study to improve the early detection of lung cancer

Published: 29 November 2023
The iDx Lung team

A Southampton-led research study which aims to improve the early diagnosis of lung cancer has recruited its final participant.

Over the last three years, 7,000 people who were invited to the NHS Lung Health Check service have also volunteered be to part of the iDx Lung study.

The study is a collaboration between the Cancer Research UK Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, the University of Leeds, the University of Exeter, and several diagnostic companies, and is testing innovative ways to detect lung cancer in its very early stages when it is more treatable, with the hope that more people could survive the disease in the future.


Finding cancer earlier

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.

“Unfortunately, lung cancer is often not picked up until it’s in its later stages,” says Professor Peter Johnson, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Southampton and Chief Investigator of study. “This means treatment options are limited and survival rates for the disease therefore remain low compared to some other cancers.”

“But we know that if it’s detected earlier, then lung cancer can be treated successfully. The iDx Lung study is using some of the latest molecular technology and innovative diagnostic techniques to try and find better ways to do this and make sure people have the best chance of a cure.”

The iDx Lung study worked alongside NHS England’s Targeted Lung Health Checks programme and the Yorkshire Lung Screening Trial where people at high risk of lung cancer are invited to attend a mobile CT scanning unit to assess their lung health.


The iDx Lung mobile sampling unit
The iDx Lung mobile sampling unit

The study team used a mobile research van which parked next to the scanner at community sites across Hampshire, Manchester and Yorkshire. 7,000 people who attended CT scans were also asked to give a nasal swab and a blood sample.

“These samples were sent to laboratories by the University of Southampton Tissue Bank, where they were tested for changes that could indicate the early signs of lung cancer developing,” says Dr Victoria Goss, Head of Early Diagnosis and Translational Research at the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit. “We are now in the process of analysing all the data from these thousands of samples to determine whether using simple biological tests can help increase diagnosis rates.”

Victoria continues: “We were absolutely delighted by the response to the iDx Lung study. So many people attending their CT scans were willing to take a little extra time out of their day to be part of this vital research, and we want to thank every one of them for helping make the trial a success.”

“It is hoped the iDx Lung study will not only drive-up detection rates in people with the very early signs of lung cancer but will also find more cost-effective ways to diagnose the disease.”


iDx Lung participant Brian Gray taking part in the study
iDx Lung participant Brian Gray taking part in the study

Building on success

In June this year, the NHS announced that it was rolling out a national targeted lung cancer screening programme across England, following the success of the pilot Targeted Lung Health Checks.

And while the results of iDx Lung are still being analysed, the research team is now also looking to expand the successful model of the study to analyse additional diagnostic tests.

Professor Johnson said: “These new tests will look for various biomarkers including those that may indicate the presence of cancer. The more successful diagnostic tools we can find for the early detection of lung cancer, the greater chance there is that the disease will become more treatable, and we will see increased survival rates for future generations.”


The iDx Lung study is sponsored by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and carried out with support from the Wessex Clinical Research Network, Thoracic Oncology Research Hub (TORCH), Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Southampton Tissue Bank, and the Southampton Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) who carry out laboratory analysis of the samples. The Research collaborators include Roche Diagnostics, Freenome, Neogenomics, the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson, and BC Platforms who provide innovative data management and analytic systems for the study.

The study is funded by a £2.75m grant from UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) and £750,000 from Cancer Research UK, as well as support from Yorkshire Cancer Research who funded the Yorkshire Lung Screening Trial, and is part of a total investment of £10 million from the Government’s Early Diagnosis Mission.


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