Main Content

“2020health is an important and thoughtful contributor to the health debate”

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chairman, Health Select Committee


Cancer: Improving early diagnosis and personalised medicine

Jan 21. till Jan 21.

Invitation Only

Hosted by John Baron MP

With guest speaker
Willie Hamilton, Professor of Primary Care Diagnostics
University of Exeter Medical School

Charles Craddock, Professor of Haemato-oncology,
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham

January 21, 20152015-01-21T09:30:35 - January 21, 2015 2015-01-21T11:00:05
9:30 AM 2015-01-21T09:30:35 - 11:00 AM 2015-01-21T11:00:05
Portcullis House, Westminster


Cancer is a broad category of illness that encompasses thousands of different presentations, treatments and outcomes. Despite recent advances in improving early referral to specialist care, survival rates in the UK remain stubbornly behind the rest of Western Europe. Lung Cancer is still often diagnosed in A&E and uptake of screening varies across the country.

Early and accurate diagnosis is the key to increasing survival rates. In this country we have a wide range of complimentary diagnostic services delivered by pathologists, geneticists, radiologists and healthcare scientists. Significant advances in the precision of diagnostic equipment have taken place over the last 60 years, ranging from testing for mutations in the BRCA1 gene in women at risk of familial breast cancer to the power of modern CT scanning. The NHS Atlas of Variation in Diagnostic Services highlights variation in the provision of healthcare services and provides a starting point to help improve understanding of the variation in the rates of many diagnostic services and make the necessary steps to address the disparity. How do we improve access to these services in a timely and appropriate manner that will enable earlier treatment and improve outcomes?

Personalised medicine
Advances in genetic testing now are helping to determine the presence and nature of cancer more precisely. Biomarking provides the scope to determine if a disease already exists (diagnostic biomarker), the probable effect of treatment (predictive biomarkers), and the extent to which the cancer may develop in an individual case irrespective of the treatment provided (prognostic biomarker). This signals a significant shift from diagnosis based on location and other behaviour measures, to diagnosis based on biology.

New targeted drugs will therefore need to be developed which will play an integral part to preventive and treatment strategies. Diagnostic testing can help identify the most appropriate and optimal therapies based on the context of a patient’s genetic profile or molecular analysis, leading to the development of drugs that match the targets discovered through sequencing. But these tests need to be repeated during treatment, so what changes are required to ensure patients get the tests and new treatments indicated?

The use of vaccines in cancer therapy also offer the promise of not only keeping precancerous lesions under control but also helping to drive forward effective and reliable forms of preventative cancer treatment. Should we be making these vaccines more available?