Revolutionising the early detection of cancer

23 Jan 2012 16:14:01.233

PA 20/1

The world’s first centre of excellence specialising in pioneering research into the early detection of cancer will be officially opened at The University of Nottingham on Thursday January 26 2012.

The Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer (CEAC) will lead research into the early detection and management of cancer and push forward the introduction of a blood test which can pick up the first signs of cancer as much as five years before a patient presents with any symptoms.

Director of CEAC, John Robertson, a world renowned breast cancer specialist and Professor of Surgery in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, said: “Early detection is the holy grail in cancer treatment. If we can treat cancer at the earliest possible moment we know we can help save millions of lives.

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CEAC’s “Cancer: Early Detection” project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of experts to lead to a better understanding of the molecular pathways that cancers in humans exploit as they develop and spread. This will help cancer specialists gain a greater insight into the associated immune response.

UK blood test for cancer in 2012

The University of Nottingham is already at the forefront of this research. Professor Robertson’s work over the last 15 years has led to the introduction of the world’s first autoantibody blood test for lung cancer — EarlyCDT-Lung. The test picks up tiny changes in the immune system that indicate, without anyone knowing, that the body has already begun its own fight against cancer. Already available in America the test is proving to be a reliable indicator of cancer months before a scan would have picked it up. It is hoped to launch the test in the UK in 2012.

It can take months, even years for a cancer, to develop — this process is known as carcinogenesis. During this period the immune system may recognise different proteins at different stages of the carcinogenesis process and make autoantibodies to fight off the invader.

Professor Robertson said: “Mapping these changes to the immune system is clinically important. However, the ability to measure these cancer specific autoantibodies in a reproducible and reliable manner has eluded the scientific community until now. We can do this for lung cancer and CEAC, through its Cancer: Early Detection project is a significant step towards early diagnosis for all forms of solid cancers — such as breast, colon and prostate.

World leading cancer specialists

Professor Peter Boyle, an internationally recognised cancer prevention advocate, will present the key note lecture “The globalisation of cancer” at the official opening.

Professor Boyle is president and founder of the privately funded International Prevention Research Institute and the former Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). He will also be on the scientific research committee which will review the work of CEAC.

Professor Robertson said: “Using the body’s immune response to cancer we are already able to detect the formation of lung cancer long before it is detectable with a CT scan. This new centre will bring together leading experts from around the world so we can revolutionise our understanding of how cancers develop and help us establish new, more effective and more patient acceptable screening tests for most types of cancer.”

Commercialisation of blood test

Based on the early work of John Robertson, The University of Nottingham spin-out company Oncimmune Ltd has successfully transferred this science into a reproducible commercial test. CEAC has secured exclusive access to this platform for academic research.

Cancer: Early Detection is a flagship project within the University’s new appeal, Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, which aims to raise £150m to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More information about the project is available at Details about Impact: The Nottingham Campaign can be found at

CEAC is based at The School of Graduate Entry Medicine and Health in Derby. With laboratories in Nottingham CEAC is fostering collaborative research across both cities.

The official launch takes place at The University of Nottingham School of Graduate Entry Medicine and Health, Royal Derby Hospital, Uttoxeter Road, Derby DE22 3DT. The media are invited to attend from 5.30pm to 8pm. The public are invited to attend Professor Peter Boyle’s lecture which takes place between 6pm to 7pm.


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Notes to editors:  The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia. Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. For more details, visit:

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

More news from the University at:

Story credits

More information is available from Professor John Robertson, on +44 (0) 1332 724881,

Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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