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Research funding awarded to improve cancer awareness and screening

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) have renewed Queen Mary University of London’s NIHR Policy Research Unit in Cancer Awareness, Screening and Early Diagnosis, with a grant of £5 million.

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The funding from the Department of Health and Social Care will allow the programme to run until 2023 and carry out research to help diagnose cancer at an earlier stage.

Professor Stephen Duffy, from Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Director of the NIHR Policy Research Unit, said: “This is a challenging time for screening and diagnostic services for cancer. However, there is clearly a determination in the clinical and research community in England to improve the stage at diagnosis of cancer and in turn increase survival from the disease.

“It is an honour and a responsibility to receive this award, and thanks are due to colleagues in Queen Mary and partners in other institutes who contributed to the application and who will carry out top-class research in the programme.”

Using social media to raise cancer awareness

The Policy Research Unit will carry out research in three areas:

  • New policies and ways of delivering messages to promote cancer symptom awareness, and reducing social, financial and other inequalities affecting early diagnosis of cancer
  • Accurate knowledge of the favourable and unfavourable effects of cancer screening programmes
  • Policies to promote quick investigation of patients at high risk of cancer when attending their general practice and to rule out suspected cancer

A particular target will be to improve the delivery of awareness messages, building on the experience of the “Be Clear on Cancer” campaigns.  The team will look at new ways of delivering the messages, including social media campaigns, and investigate the information needs of both patients and doctors.

Targeted screening options

They will also look at departing from the policy of a 'one size fits all' approach to cancer screening and assess the effects of policies offering different screening options to different populations based on their risk of disease and other factors.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “Patients and the public deserve a healthcare system that is informed by the latest research and evidence. The NIHR Policy Research Units will make sure that Government decisions affecting our health and care are robust and evidence based.”

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