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Early Cancer Institute

The research group leaders in a lab in the Early Cancer Institute

Our vision: A world where people no longer fear cancer.

The Early Cancer Institute at the University of Cambridge is the UK's only Institute dedicated to Early Cancer; a world-leading centre for research into the early detection of cancer. We are a highly multidisciplinary, collaborative ecosystem of experts working to take early detection innovations from bench to bedside and move the world beyond the fear of cancer. We are based on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and are currently home to eleven research groups.

Our key research objectives are:

1. Risk prediction.

2. Detection of early cancers.

3. Interception to prevent lethal cancer developing.

To achieve our aims we perform laboratory research to determine the cell and molecular factors that lead to the initiation and development of primary cancer.

Importantly we want to understand what distinguishes between the development of indolent, very slowly progressing lesions occurring as a normal part of ageing compared with processes leading to a symptomatic cancer that threatens life.

We perform analyses of big data and AI to develop risk prediction tools with close collaboration with the Cambridge Centre for Genetic Epidemiology and Genomics England.

We are developing novel technologies that have the resolution to detect cancer and pre-cancer with the required accuracy for clinical application. We have collaborative projects with Chemical Engineering  and Physics

We collaborate with public health, social scientists and ethicists across the wider University, including Social Anthropology and Public Health and Primary Care, to understand the implications for the health system and for society at large as new clinical strategies emerge.

Our history

The Early Cancer Institute was launched as a stand-alone Institute in September 2022, following the success of our Early Detection Programme.

The 'Early Detection Programme' began in 2016 as part of the CRUK Cambridge Centre, and the following six years of hard work created a network of over 200 members within Cambridge and beyond. The programme initially recruited and supported four researchers in building their independent groups by attracting around £7M in new funding.

Alongside the work in the labs, the Programme organised a number of events including seven annual symposia featuring research from our members and affiliates alongside renowned international speakers to raise awareness of early cancer detection and to initiate new research collaborations. With funding from CRUK we have also funded 22 pump-priming projects, totalling over £1.3million, many of which have been awarded follow-on funding to move the research to the next stage. These pump-priming awards have resulted in patents, prototypes and 39 publications to date.

In April 2022, following the successful renewal of the CRUK Cambridge Centre, it was decided that it was timely for the Early Detection Programme to became a physical institute. In September 2022 the physical Early Cancer Institute was officially opened on the Biomedical Campus. The Early Cancer Institute is directed by Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald OBE FMedSci and currently houses eleven research groups.