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Major cancer study on tumour behaviour highlights the need for early diagnosis

Results from one of the most comprehensive studies on tumour evolution were released in April, highlighting the need to focus more on prevention and early diagnosis, rather than on cure.

The study looked at lung cancer and how cancers evolve and spread. According to Cancer Research UK, lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK with around 48,500 people diagnosed each year. The study says that primary lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide, with most deaths occurring in patients with metastatic disease, when the cancer spreads. Of course when cancer spreads, it remains very difficult to prevent and treat.

Finding a possible cure for cancer is a huge undertaking to say the least. One of the main challenges seems to be because of tumours having an "almost infinite" ability to evolve and survive. However, despite this rather depressing concept, the study indicates that there could be positive implications for cancer treatment as it is hoped that this and further research will lead to better ways of predicting how cancers will develop.

The cells making up tumours often have different DNA. This ends up with it being easier for cancers to evolve and spread. To help prevent cancer from coming back or spreading, scientists need to be able to identify which tumour cells are most likely to spread. If there is a greater understanding of how tumours behave in each individual, this will be helpful in planning the best course of treatment.

The study results also emphasise again how important early detection and prevention is with cancer. Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician has said that “if we want to make the biggest impact we need to focus on prevention, early detection and early detection of relapse."

This underscores the importance of engagement with the cancer screening programmes offered in the UK, including those for breast, cervical and bowel cancers. A recent news story reported a 58-year-old musician being diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer after taking a home bowel screening test, despite having no symptoms. He says the early diagnosis saved his life and has urged others to take up the test. Interestingly, in September last year the UK National Screening Committee recommended also introducing a targeted lung cancer screening programme across the UK for people considered to be at high risk of the disease.

As a medical negligence lawyer who often sees the devastating impact that cancer can have on clients and their loved ones, it's reassuring to note that the study has been awarded further funding and that the research will continue. This is an important development with potential positive implications for cancer treatment in the future.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by cancer at our dedicated cancer claims section.

An unprecedented analysis of how cancers grow has revealed an "almost infinite" ability of tumours to evolve and survive, say scientists.”