UCL Health


Supporting earlier-stage diagnosis

Health economic evaluation of early diagnosis interventions, and modelling of natural history of cancer to support earlier-stage diagnosis.

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20 June 2024


During 2024-2029, several novel diagnostic technologies (including Multi-Cancer Early Detection (MCED) tests, Cytosponge, or colon capsule endoscopy), are likely to be introduced either into screening or symptomatic investigation NHS pathways. Health economic evaluation studies are critical to help optimally translate findings to populations of patients other than those included in trials, and support targeted implementation.

Evaluation of diagnostic technologies, especially economic evaluation of such technologies, is an emerging field and user preferences in terms of what outcomes matter most to stakeholders are poorly understood; we will generate evidence to support the relevance and validity of such evaluations by our PRU and broadly. Alongside this, understanding tumour progression in the preclinical phase and from early to advanced stage disease is critical to design and evaluate early detection interventions. 

Aims and objectives

  • To assess the cost-effectiveness of a novel diagnostic technology. 
  • To generate evidence about the patient/public, healthcare professional and policymaker priorities and preferences to evaluate early diagnosis interventions  
  • To develop a framework to evaluate the impact of early detection strategies on stage of diagnosis, cancer-specific mortality, and overdiagnosis. 

Policy Relevance & Dissemination  

We focus on both the usefulness of our specific projects but also their paradigmatic implications for the field. The outputs of this project will support the implementation of the chosen emerging diagnostic technology in the NHS, but also generate a toolkit for similar evaluations.

We will generate portable / generalisable evidence and provide a toolkit/framework to support the evaluation of novel diagnostic technologies, both within the PRU and more widely. This will also allow us to inform policy on the optimal screening strategies (age, frequency) and the optimal waiting time to diagnosis to maximise cancer death reduction and reduction in overdiagnosis.   

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The NIHR Policy Research Unit in Cancer Awareness, Screening and Early Diagnosis is part of the NIHR and hosted by UCL.