The CanTest project won £5m funding over five years from Cancer Research UK's Population Research Catalyst Award.
The charity said the ‘revolutionary’ project aimed to develop new ways of diagnosing cancer in GP surgeries by evaluating the accuracy, cost-effectiveness and suitability of a range of diagnostic methods.
Research will be conducted at a number of UK universities – including the University of Cambridge, the University of Exeter, University College London and the University of Leeds – in addition to other international institutions.
To help build the research community, CanTest will also establish an International School for Cancer Detection Research to enable more scientists to enter and train in the field.
GP cancer tests
Welcoming the announcement, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘GPs are already doing great work appropriately referring patients with suspected cancer – but access to any new or improved diagnostic tools would potentially be of huge benefit to family doctors and our patients, so the research that this grant will fund is incredibly important.
‘GPs are dealing with increasingly complex diseases in our surgeries – things that just a decade ago would have been referred immediately to secondary care – and this has only been made possible through advances that have come out of research done in the community, led by academic GPs in medical schools.’
Professor Willie Hamilton, a GP and researcher from the University of Exeter, said: ‘As a GP myself, I know that it can be frustrating to wait weeks for results before making any decisions for my patients. We’re trying to reduce this time by assessing ways that GPs could carry out these tests by themselves, as long as it’s safe and sensible to do so.’
Cancer Research UK chief executive Sir Harpal Kumar 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.’