Lung Cancer

Discovering new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat lung cancer by learning from every patient

Reagents on a laboratory shelf

About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, with approximately 50,000 people diagnosed each year and the incidence of lung cancer in the North West is higher than average, which correlates to patterns of tobacco addiction and carcinogen exposure particularly focused on economically vulnerable communities.

  • Tobacco smoking is the main cause, of lung cancer accounting for approximately 70% of cases
  • Around 20% of lung cancer occurs in never-smokers (defined by individuals who have smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime)
  • Lung cancer predominantly affects older individuals, with over 40% of new diagnoses in those aged 75 and over, lung cancer is often diagnosed at advanced stages, making it the most common cause of cancer death

Non-small-cell-lung cancer, constitutes about 80% of cases and is further categorised into squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large-cell carcinoma.

Small-cell lung cancer is less common but tends to spread faster.

Our patient-centred research is designed to tackle the most difficult problems to solve. We involve patients and the public to help identify the most important questions to answer now and in the future.

Manchester researchers are identifying innovative ways to detect lung cancer early. Through various facilities, researchers conduct practice-changing local, national and international clinical trials across a wide range of treatments including, precision medicines, immunotherapy and radiotherapy alone or in combination.

A primary aim is to better understand lung cancer biology using blood and tissue samples that our patients donate to the MCRC biobank. One example of pioneering research is the use of liquid biopsies, a simple blood sample containing cancer cells, to study lung cancer in the laboratory. Further aims are to develop methods for these to be used for earlier detection of cancer, precise selection of treatment and monitoring of response and resistance to treatment.

The team work to conduct trials of drug and radiotherapy treatments designed to improve cure rates, extend survival, and improve quality of life. Key themes include working on how to adapt and personalise drug and radiotherapy treatment using digital tools and data science, as well as train the next generation of clinical researchers and scientists.

Scan of a pair of lungs

Lung Cancer Research in Manchester

The MCRC Lung Cancer Research Group is a multidisciplinary collaborative group of clinician researchers and scientists who work in the laboratory. The team collectively conducts translational research of lung cancer samples and tissues donated by patients, from lab-based research through to clinical trials and studies that patients participate in either instead of or as part of their usual treatment. A patient-centred approach is fundamental to our research questions.


The research themes align with those of the Cancer Research UK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence, a joint centre between The University of Manchester and University College London and is conducted at The Christie Research and Innovation, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, and the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute (CRUK MI).


The team aims to find better ways to prevent lung cancer in high risk individuals and detect it earlier to increase cure rates. Late stage diagnosis can limit patient survival, thus researching and identifying new methods for early detection and disease prevention are key to helping our patients.


One example is the lung cancer screening project, which combines risk stratification and engaging with local communities, and the pilot study has demonstrated an ability to shift diagnosis from late to early stage disease.

Dr Phil Crosbie in a therapy room at MFT

To improve access to screening, the Manchester ‘Lung Health Checks’ initiative was set up to improve early diagnosis for lung cancer and other respiratory conditions across North and East Manchester. Find out more on the MFT website.

Research Activities

Our work is geared towards understanding the molecular basis of lung cancer, and how this knowledge can help to personalise cancer treatments for patients. The group is finding better ways to tailor treatments to the individual patient using genomic biomarkers, liquid biopsies and in patients undergoing radiotherapy and theragnostics. Within discovery science, researchers are harnessing genomic data and bioinformatics approaches to understand why lung cancers respond to treatment then develop resistance.


The team focus on using minimally invasive liquid biopsy to detect lung cancer early, diagnose and predict sensitivity to treatment, monitor cancer after treatment to catch relapse early and identify resistance mechanisms.


An example of this work includes the pioneering developments of circulating tumour cell (CTC) derived explant models (CDX) that mimic the biology of individual patients lung cancer and mirror response to treatment. The models offer a more relevant pre-clinical platform for investigation of lung cancer and selection of the most suitable drugs to test in clinical trials in patients. The team is further exploring the use of liquid biopsies in patients who have received treatment with a goal to improve survivorship, through tracking tumour evolution and detecting minimal residual disease.


Manchester researchers also lead national and international trials of new radiotherapy technologies, and drugs used in combination with radiotherapy. Research into proton therapy and MR-guided radiotherapy , harnessing big data and theragnostics – combining imaging and patient reported outcomes – are examples of how to further individualise treatment and improve outcome for the individual. Biomarkers such as gene signatures and imaging-based measures of hypoxia offer the chance to intensify or adapt radiotherapy where necessary.

Future Aspirations in Lung Cancer Research


Early Detection

  • Can implementing a lung cancer screening programme model improve lung cancer survivorship by detecting lung cancer earlier?
  • Can biomarkers in the blood be used to screen patients for lung cancer?


Drug and biomarker development

  • How can we improve selection of therapy for an individual patient using molecular or clinical characteristics to increase benefit and reduce toxicity?
  • How can chemotherapy, targeted therapies and immunotherapies be combined and/or sequenced to obtain the best clinical outcome for an individual patient with lung cancer?


Radiation, Radiotherapy and Theragnostics

  • Can we personalise radiotherapy treatment using blood and imaging biomarkers to improve outcomes for patients?
  • Can we demonstrate the benefit of advanced radiotherapy techniques such as MR-linac and protons?

Where is our research performed?

Lung cancer researchers operate from the following facilities and centres across Manchester

Manchester Tram next to map of Manchester

Latest News

Disease Sites

Navigate back to Disease Sites and discover more cancer research activities in Manchester

Research in Manchester

Discover how Team Science is enabling the creation of impactful science, why engaging and involving patients and members of the public in our research activities is core to our success, the research heritage our scientists are building upon, and finally specific examples of research successes.

Manchester Cancer Research Nexus

Cancer research in Manchester exists as a nexus. Our research is interconnected, collaborative, world-leading, and impactful. Discover more about the various Centres of Excellence, Institutes, and Teams all driving excellence in cancer research.

Cancer Research Facilities and Infrastructure

Discover the range of facilities and state-of-the-art equipment available to researchers in Manchester.

Research Themes

Discover the cross-cutting research themes supported by the MCRC.