U.K. researchers aim to predict cancer risk, streamline diagnosis

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U.K. researchers have launched  the CANcer DIagnosis Decision rules (CANDID) study, with the goal of predicting who is at higher risk for cancer. Ultimately, such information may help curb unnecessary diagnostic procedures.

The National Institute of Health Research's School for Primary Care Research funded the £2 million ($3.2 million U.S.) five-year study. Researchers will collect and analyze clinical information and blood samples from 20,000 patients who have had lung or colon cancer. The aim is to determine which signs and symptoms are most predictive of those who eventually are diagnosed with the disease.

Genetic testing will be carried out after the recruitment phase of the study to establish how much extra information genetics provides beyond the clinical information.

The study aims to improve the diagnostic referral process for patients. The current system requires providers to refer urgent cases within two weeks; other patients wait up to 62 days for referral. However, it has been reported that some patients have to wait much longer and some have visited their physician more than once before being referred.

"We need to improve both the early referral rates for cancer but, at the same time, we do not want to overload the system with lots of people who are at a low risk of having cancer and may have negative side effects of being over-investigated. Waiting for results and dealing with the possibility of having cancer can be a distressing and daunting time for patients and their families, our research aims to aid the patient pathway and help medical professionals, so every patient is dealt with in the most appropriate way and in a timely fashion," Paul Little, MBBS, MD, professor of primary care research at the University of Southampton in Southampton, England, said in a press release.