The DELTA project, led by Heartburn Cancer UK Trustee, Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, is one of seven to share £16m of funding from a partnership between UKRI and Cancer Research UK. 

The project aims to improve the diagnosis of oesophageal cancer. It is a collaboration between the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Kings College London, the PHG Foundation and Cyted. Advisory Board support is provided by Action Against Heartburn, Heartburn Cancer UK, the NHS and Newcastle University. The team will develop algorithms to identify individuals most at risk. These people will be offered a Cytosponge™-TFF3 test, which can be delivered in an office setting. Cyted will develop AI algorithms to assist pathologists with rapid diagnoses. People diagnosed with Barrett’s oesophagus can then be monitored regularly for early signs of cancer.

Science Minister Amanda Sollowy Explained:

“Our brilliant scientists and researchers in Cambridge are harnessing world-leading technologies, like AI, to tackle some of the most complex and chronic diseases that we face.” 

“Tragically, we know that one in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime.

“The University of Cambridge project we are backing today will help ensure more lives are saved and improved, as it aims to diagnose up to 50% of oesophageal cancer cases earlier.”

For more detail on all the projects being funded please see below:

Seven projects that intelligently combine data from blood tests, tissue analysis, imaging techniques, genetic profiles and our medical history, will share a £16m grant from UKRI’s industrial strategy challenge fund

The projects, which focus on cancer, liver and bowel health, will use AI to bring together and better interpret data from multiple sources, leading to improved diagnoses, more precise treatments and fewer deaths and other health problems among affected people. They involve partners across the UK, including Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The projects will combine genomic, tissue analysis and other data, so that we can detect and diagnose disease more accurately and earlier and develop more precise treatments for a number of serious conditions that blight the lives of millions of people across the UK.

They bring together the different strengths of academia, charities, digital health and diagnostics companies and include both small businesses and bigger companies, like Roche, to attract an additional £20.5m of private sector funding.

UKRI is also partnering with Cancer Research UK, which is making a £3m contribution to the cancer-focused projects.

The projects are:

  • Combining genomic and tissue-based cancer analysis with artificial intelligence to achieve more accurate and earlier diagnosis of different types of cancer, improving the outcomes for patients. The project, called Actioned, will be led by Queen’s University Belfast.
  • A University of Cambridge project which will help to diagnose oesophageal cancer, which has increased 6-fold since the 1990s. Just 15% of people will survive for 5 years or more – often because it’s diagnosed too late. Barrett's oesophagus, a condition that can turn into cancer of the oesophagus, is more common in patients who suffer with heartburn. By using a new test for patients with heartburn the project aims to diagnose up to 50% of cases of oesophageal cancer earlier, leading to improvements in survival, quality of life and economic benefits for the NHS.
  • Bowel cancer is the 2nd biggest killer among cancer-related deaths in the UK. A project, led by the University of Glasgow, will use cutting-edge technology and new data to develop a tool to more accurately predict which patients with pre-cancerous growths in their bowels, called polyps, will develop further polyps.  This tool will improve patient care, by identifying polyps early and allowing them to be removed before they become cancer, reduce unnecessary colonoscopies and reduce costs for the NHS and the UK.
  • University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust-led nto when liver scarring, which affects up to 4 in ten people, can lead to complete liver failure. Current tests pick up advanced scarring but don’t pinpoint early disease or those patients who are destined for much worse. The project will use software to come up with much better, much earlier answers.
  • A project, led by technology company Motilent Ltd, to more effectively treat Crohn's disease, a painful, lifelong, inflammatory condition affecting 125,000 people in the UK. Drugs can quickly control and suppress the inflammation but have a 40% failure rate and can lead to further, irreversible damage to a patient's bowel.  The project is designed to more accurately predict when to start and stop drug use by combining magnetic resonance imaging and artificial intelligence.
  • Two projects that aim to improve survival rates in people with lung cancer, one led by Oxford University and the other by the University of Southampton. Lung cancer kills more people in the UK than any other cancer. Both projects will bring together existing work being done by the NHS, universities, cancer charities, diagnostic and digital health companies to integrate the best of digital imaging, pathology, and protein and genetic analysis.