Have you heard the news? The University of Manchester has joined the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED) aiming to accelerate the pace and scope of early detection research performed in Manchester. To dive deeper into this news, we interviewed Dr Martin Bone, ACED Programme Manager, to tell us what ACED is and how Manchester is contributing
· What is the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection?
The Alliance, also known as ACED, is a partnership between Cancer Research UK and 5 different UK and US institutions: The University of Cambridge, the Canary Centre at Stanford, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, UCL and the University of Manchester, all conducting research on cancer early detection. The goal of ACED is that the sum is better than the individual parts, and so has partnered five of the world’s most recognised early detection centres with CRUK to facilitate discovery and innovation in the field of cancer detection.
· What makes early detection so important in cancer research?
One of the ways to improve cancer survival rates is to get the disease diagnosed earlier. For example, in the UK when diagnosed at the earliest stage, almost all breast cancer patients (98%) survive for 5 years or more. However, when breast cancer patients are diagnosed in the most advanced stage of their disease, only 26% survive for 5 years or more. It’s a similar story for patients suffering from other cancers, and if we can find the cancer in its earliest stage, then the patient has a higher chance of survival. Early detection research has also been historically underfunded, and this Alliance recognises the drive and need for increased funding.
· How does the Alliance work then?
Again, to realise how ACED works, we need to look at how early detection research used to be done. Internationally, there are numerous centres rallying to detect cancer early, and each of these centres would have specific areas of expertise, but also areas of weakness. For instance, Manchester has a strong healthcare system due to the devolvement allowing the flexibility in assigning resources where they are most needed.
Instead, ACED seeks to change this system by acting as a ‘force multiplier’, ensuring that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This means that if Stanford University pioneers a new piece of technology for imaging lung cancer for instance, this can be deployed in Manchester where lung cancer is a leading cause of premature death. By collaborating, the centres are ensuring that individual gaps can be filled and respective strengths channelled to the relevant places to maximise membership benefits. ACED therefore brings together complementary skill sets, research areas and patient groups in order to tackle cancer detection in a holistic way rather than individually.
· What is ACED bringing to Manchester?
Manchester has a rich heritage in both prevention and early detection research already. It was here that Henry Kitchener and Peter Stern performed vital trials that led to the development of the HPV vaccine. A further great example of Manchester’s commitment to early detection research is the ‘Scans in Vans’ project where two vans –– one containing a room for appointments and basic tests and one that housed a mobile CT scanner – were sent to local car parks in North Manchester to perform lung health checks to those between 55 and 72 and with histories of smoking. Over the course of two weeks an astonishing 2541 people were screened and 62 diagnosed with lung cancer. This approach is much more efficient than the usual NHS screenings, as Dr Phil Crosbie, the leading researcher from Wythenshawe hospital, explains that 75% of lung cancer diagnoses made in hospitals are at the latest stage of cancer, whereas 80% of cancers diagnosed in the vans were in very early stages, meaning they are easier to treat.
What we’re doing with our funding through ACED is building on this heritage by developing and exploring new areas of research related to cancer early detection. Our projects are looking at improving screening technologies or searching for biologic answers to the question of what causes cancer. We’re seeking to answer the fundamental questions of how cancer develops in the pre-cancer to early-cancer stages and the roles that the immune system, tumour microenvironment and proteins have on cancer development. We’re also exploring new ways to model cancer, using 3D printing of cancer cells to model growth.
· Where is ACED heading in the future?
The Alliance is at an exciting stage of its journey, covering both the basic and translational research that will drive new treatments into the clinic. ACED’s fundamental aim is to share this research and its benefits with countries across the world to create an international hub for early detection, with Manchester providing critical input and leadership on which these crucial developments can take place. To further support the awareness of ACED and Early Detection in Manchester, we are holding a celebration event on the 22nd of November in the OCRB between 1.30 and 4.30pm for everyone to attend.
For more information on Prevention and Early Detection at Manchester visit our website.
If you would like to attend our Celebration event, please sign up using Eventbrite here.