3rd July 2020

New national AI programme to improve lung cancer screening

View all Early detection

More than £11 million is being invested in an artificial intelligence (AI) research programme at the University of Oxford to improve the diagnosis of lung cancer.

Working with the NHS England Lung Health Check programme, clinical, imaging and molecular data will be combined for the first-time using AI algorithms. The aim is to diagnose lung cancer more accurately and more quickly, with fewer invasive tests.

Professor Fergus Gleeson is the chief investigator for the programme:

“The novel linking of diagnostic technologies, patient outcomes and biomarkers using AI has the potential to make a real difference to how people with suspected lung cancer are investigated. By differentiating between cancers and non-cancers more accurately based on the initial CT scan and blood tests, we hope to remove the delay and possible harm caused by repeat scans and further invasive tests.

If successful, this has the potential to reduce patient anxiety and diagnose cancers earlier to improve survival and save the NHS money.”

The programme will also link to data from primary care to better assess risk in the general population to refine the selection process for screening and, in turn, define a new set of standards for lung cancer screening.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, is delighted to support the programme:

“Whilst improvements have been made, the fact remains the majority of lung cancer patients are still diagnosed too late to for the disease to be cured. This innovative project has the potential to revolutionise lung cancer screening, making it more efficient and most importantly, saving lives.

We need to be diagnosing lung cancer at an earlier stage to give people the best chance of long-term survival, to give people the chance to see their children and grandchildren grow up, to enjoy retirement with their partner, to live a full, long life. AI has the potential to do this and we are delighted to support it.”

To improve patient care beyond the current screening guidelines, a team of academics from Oxford University, Nottingham University, and Imperial College London; NHS clinicians from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, the Royal Marsden Hospital, the Royal Brompton Hospital, and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; and Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation will join forces with three leading industrial partners, Roche Diagnostics, GE Healthcare and Optellum.