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The NIHR unveils a significant investment in its Policy Research Units, with a spotlight on early cancer detection. Led by experts from Oxford and UCL, this initiative aims to transform research into actionable policies, targeting the NHS's ambitious goal of early diagnosis for 3 out of 4 cancer patients by 2028.

The NIHR (National Institute for Health and Care Research) has announced a major investment in its Policy Research Units (PRUs). Our department is thrilled to be part of the Unit focusing on Cancer Awareness, Screening, and Early Diagnosis.

Associate Prof Brian Nicholson of our department is co-directing the new Policy Research Unit focusing on Cancer Awareness, Screening, and Early Diagnosis. The unit aims to support and conduct research prioritised with the Department of Health and Social Care to aide patients, healthcare professionals, and the NHS in enhancing early cancer detection. This collaborative initiative is steered by Prof Yoryos Lyratzopoulos (UCL) and Brian Nicholson (Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences), in collaboration with experts from the Universities of Leicester, Surrey, and Cambridge.

The primary objective of the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Cancer Awareness, Screening, and Early Diagnosis, is to provide policymakers with top-tier research findings. These are pivotal for the NHS's goal to diagnose 3 out of 4 people with cancer at an early stage by 2028. The unit’s approach is threefold:

  • empowering individuals with knowledge for help-seeking and informed screening decisions,
  •  assisting professionals in assessing cancer risk and monitoring persistent symptoms, and
  •  guiding policymakers with evaluations of new screening and diagnostic methods.

This multi-disciplinary collaboration, involving 14 national leaders, will work closely with key policymakers, ensuring our research remains relevant and actionable. Dr Claire Friedemann Smith and Associate Professor Clare Bankhead will be leading the Oxford PRU team.

Brian said: "The Policy Research Units are placed at the forefront of change, integrating ground-breaking research into actionable policy. This collaboration isn't just about discovery; it's about translating our findings into practices that can genuinely make a difference to patients in early cancer detection and care."

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of NIHR, highlighted the NIHR's commitment to ensuring research benefits for patients and the public. She noted, "The new Policy Research Units are designed to evaluate policy robustly, equipping the government and associated organizations to act based on the freshest evidence. This impacts decisions about health and social care concerning everyone.” The funding encompasses PRUs in several key policy areas, including cancer screening, social care, reproductive health, addiction, dementia, and neurodegeneration.

The Cancer Awareness, Screening, Early Diagnosis PRU is among 20 units that have collectively received a portion of a £100 million fund, all set to address pressing health and social care challenges. These PRUs offer both a long-term base for policy research and a swift response service to cater to emerging policy requirements.

Read more on the NIHR site here.


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