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Cancer is easier to treat if it is diagnosed early. There is a need to improve screening pathways and develop new diagnostic technologies that reduce the impact on NHS resources whilst specifically detecting those with cancer at an earlier stage.

DNA from cancer cells (called cfDNA) can be detected in the blood as the tumour develops. Researchers can take advantage of this, by developing technologies that detect cfDNA, and thus find cancers earlier than existing pathways.

The SYMPLIFY study is in place to assess the performance of one such multi-cancer early detection (MCED) test.


Opening to recruitment in July 2021, SYMPLIFY will assess the performance of the MCED test in people sent to one of five rapid referral pathways by their GP, because they are displaying symptoms that might be due to cancer. People taking part in the study will have their diagnostic test(s) in the normal way, but will also give a blood sample and permission for the SYMPLIFY team to check their health records later to see if they were diagnosed with cancer and what appointments and other tests they had.

At the end of the study, having tested the blood with the MCED test, the team will understand more about how well it works in this group of people.  This will help them to design another trial where they can check how to implement the test to decide who needs rapid referral to look for a possible cancer and what tests to use following a positive MCED result.

The SYMPLIFY Study is a collaboration between the University of Oxford’s Department of Oncology, the Cancer Research Group at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, the Oncology Clinical Trials Office, and the Primary Care Clinical Trials Unit.

SYMPLIFY is currently recruiting at sites across the UK, including 13 NHS Trusts in England and 19 district hospitals in Wales coordinated by Velindre University NHS Trust. England recruiting sites:

  • Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust
  • North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust
  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust
  • Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
  • Torbay & South Devon Foundation Trust
  • University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
  • York & Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust