National recognition for cancer diagnosis tool

A doctor completing patient notes
13 Jun 2012 14:29:47.440

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Research that could help GPs to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering with gastro-oesophageal cancer is in the running for a national award.

The study, carried out by Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox and Dr Carol Coupland, at The University of Nottingham and originally published in the British Journal of General Practice, developed an algorithm to help identify those suffering with gastro-oesophageal cancer at an earlier stage by ‘red-flagging’ potentially worrying combinations of symptoms and risk factors.

The research team is one of just seven nominees out of 80 entries to make it through to the finals for the prestigious national 2011Royal College of General Practitioners and Novartis Research Paper of the Year Award and is also nominated in the specialist category of Cancer Paper of the Year.

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Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox said: “It is a great honour and hugely rewarding to hear that our research has been recognised with a nomination at these prestigious awards, especially given the calibre of the competition.

“While recognition of this kind is indeed gratifying, we hope that our research will continue to make an impact in the longer term by assisting GPs in the incredibly difficult job of spotting this potentially deadly disease and arming them with an effective tool in protecting the health of their patients.”

Underlying risk factors

One of the most common cancers worldwide, diagnosis of gastro-oesophageal cancer often relies on late indicator symptoms — the research focus was to develop a tool with the ability to highlight the illness at an early stage by primary care clinicians such as GPs.

The paper produced by the Nottingham team evaluated the effectiveness of the QCancer® gastro-oesophageal algorithm — which they developed in collaboration with the medical software company ClinRisk — in spotting patients with both the symptoms and underlying risk factors which may make them statistically more likely to have or to develop the common form of cancer.

The research found that the 10 per cent of the patients that the algorithm predicted as most at risk of having the disease accounted for 77 per cent of all the gastro-oesophageal cancer cases diagnosed over the following two years.

Robust and comprehensive

In assessing the paper, the awards judging panel found that the algorithm was a far more robust and comprehensive predictor of gastro-oesophageal cancers than other diagnostic tools currently available.

Award panel chair, Professor Frank Sullivan, said: “GPs would be able to incorporate this tool into daily practice as a useful addition to the interventions available to them on this disease. It could also serve to engender a more proactive approach in partnerships with patients who are at risk of gastro-oesophageal cancers.”

Department of Health cancer tsar Professor Mike Richards said: "It can be difficult for GPs to assess the risk of a patient having cancer and therefore to know who should be investigated and/or referred to secondary care. QCancer provides a new approach to such risk assessment.”

The research has also led to a simple web-based calculator which can be used by patients to check whether they have symptoms that need to be assessed by a doctor.

Record entries

A record number of entries are competing to win the 2011 RCGP and Novartis Research Paper of the Year, which will be presented on 18 June.

Now in its fifteenth year, the nomination call for the 2011 Research Paper of the Year has attracted 80 entries, more than double the previous year’s intake.

Along with the overall 2011 winner, the awards will also include six sub-category winners which are aligned to the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) topic-specific research areas, including diabetes, stroke and primary care, and a seventh category of the Primary Care Research Network.

The authors of the winning paper will be invited to present their research at the annual RCGP and Society for Academic Primary Care Conference which is being held in conjunction with the 2012 RCGP Annual Primary Care Conference in Glasgow in October.

The black tie presentation dinner will be held at The Honourable Artillery Company, Armoury House in London.
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QResearch® is a non-profit making venture run by The University of Nottingham in collaboration with EMIS. More than 600 EMIS practices, representing around eight million patients, regularly contribute to the database. The system anonymises and uploads practices’ clinical data to the central database. Then, to protect patient confidentiality, the data are further anonymised and the figures are totalled to produce data that are suitable for research. (

EMIS Group* is the UK’s leading supplier of healthcare software and related services to GP practices.
ClinRisk Ltd is a medical research and software company which provides open and closed source software to implement algorithms in clinical computer systems.

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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 40,000 students at 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 ‘the world’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking 2011.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2011, for its research into global food security.

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. More news

Story credits

 More information is available from Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox by email at

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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