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Project aims to act as ‘catalyst’ for more nurse practitioners to diagnose cancer

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A “revolutionary” project is to investigate ways of bringing new and improved cancer diagnostic tests to clinicians working in primary care settings.

The CanTest project, funded with £5m from Cancer Research UK, will aim to improve and develop new ways of diagnosing cancer in GP surgeries.

“This collaboration will help us discover new and more effective ways to diagnose cancer”

Harpal Kumar

It will assess the accuracy, cost effectiveness and suitability of a range of diagnostic methods and tools as a way to lower diagnostic waiting times and reduce the burden of referrals.

The diagnostic tests involved will be carried out by primary care practitioners, including GPs, physician’s assistants, and nurse practitioners, said the charity.

CanTest will involve the University of Cambridge, the University of Exeter, University College London, and the University of Leeds, and a number of international institutions.

The project will help “build a community” of scientists and clinicians who will develop and implement new cancer tests for GPs surgeries, said Cancer Research UK.

“We want to create an educational ‘melting pot’ to rapidly expand the field”

Fiona Walter

To create the community, CanTest will set up an International School for Cancer Detection Research in Primary Care, which will train and support scientists seeking to enter the field, said the charity.

Professor Willie Hamilton, from Exeter University, said: “I know that it can be frustrating to wait weeks for results before making any decisions for my patients. We’re open to assessing many different tests.”

Dr Fiona Walter, from Cambridge University, added: “We want to nurture a new generation of researchers from a variety of backgrounds to work in primary care cancer diagnostics, creating an educational ‘melting pot’ to rapidly expand the field internationally.”

Harpal Kumar

Harpal Kumar

Harpal Kumar

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “This collaboration will help us discover new and more effective ways to diagnose cancer by applying different methods to GP surgeries, and finding out what really works for them on the job.

“By investing in future experts in this field, it will allow us to continue searching for the best way to diagnose cancer patients for many years to come,” he said.

Dr Kumar added that the project had the potential to save time for clinicians and to reduce the “anxiety patients feel when waiting for their results”.

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