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Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox is collaborating on the University of Cambridge-led DELTA programme that aims to diagnose oesophageal cancer earlier.

Oesophageal cancer has increased six-fold since the 1990s and just 15% of people will survive for 5 years or more – often because it is diagnosed too late. Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition that can turn into cancer of the oesophagus, is more common in patients who suffer from heartburn. The DELTA project, led by the University of Cambridge, aims to diagnose up to 50% of cases of oesophageal cancer earlier, leading to improvements in survival, quality of life and economic benefits for the NHS.

Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox (Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford) is leading on the clinical epidemiology element of this research programme. The QResearch database is one of the largest clinical research databases in Europe, covering 35 million patients from 1,500 GP practices throughout the UK. It includes longitudinal data collected over 25 years that is linked at an individual patient level to Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), mortality data and cancer registration (more details on QResearch here), making it an extremely rich resource for cancer research. Julia will interrogate the QResearch database with the aim of developing a risk prediction algorithm that will be able to identify those individuals at highest risk of oesophageal cancer for further investigation.

The funding for this new programme, delivered through UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI’s) Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, is part of over £13m government investment in ‘data to early diagnosis and precision medicine’ for the research, development and evaluation of integrated diagnostic solutions. UKRI is also partnering with Cancer Research UK, which is making up to a £3m contribution to the cancer-focused projects. The Cambridge-led project is one of six awarded from this competition.

Julia is also contributing to the University of Oxford-led programme to accelerate the diagnosis of lung cancer, funded through the same competition. Find out more about the DART programme here.