UW gets part of $6 million grant from Cancer Research UK

The University of Washington School of Medicine was awarded part of a $6 million grant for innovations in primary care.

Cancer screenings and testing for patients are often expensive, invasive, and hard to schedule immediately. Patients can end up spending weeks worrying over upcoming tests, and they typically have to seek these tests through referrals from their primary care doctors.

While health care technology has seen major advances in the last decade, these elements of primary care are often overlooked.

Dr. Matthew Thomas, the director of family medicine at the School of Medicine and a practitioner at the UW Neighborhood Northgate Clinic, is eager to address these problems with diagnostic testing. His department is part of a larger group of research institutions who were recently awarded a $6 million grant to develop quicker and cheaper cancer diagnostic technologies for primary care doctors.

“These technologies will take investment and development and testing, and I think primary care doctors will welcome that, as will our patients,” Dr. Thomas said in the press release.

Researchers are working to develop the diagnostic technology so that it’s not just cheaper, but also quicker.

“As a GP (general practitioner) myself, I know 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,” said Professor Willie Hamilton at the University of Exeter in the press release by Cancer Research UK.

Of course, this technology could also save lives. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, but with early detection survival rates increase dramatically. When diagnosed at State 3, non-small cell lung cancer has a cure rate of less than 25 percent, but when diagnosed at Stage 1, it has a cure rate of over 70 percent. New technology that aims to screen for lung cancer with breath testing makes early detection easier.

The UW School of Medicine will direct the funds to the Primary Care Innovation Lab. The Lab’s researchers have access to the WWAMI-based Practice & Research Network of 50 primary care clinics in five states, as wells as 12 UW Neighborhood clinics in the greater Seattle area.

The grant is funded by Cancer Research UK and is a part of their CanTest project, which aims to improve and develop new ways of diagnosing cancer. UW School of Medicine joins researchers at several international institutions, including the University of Cambridge. The Baylor College of Medicine in Houston was also selected as the only other research site in the United States.