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Cambridge-led kidney cancer screening trial to start in Leeds

Updated: Apr 6

A new study, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge, will investigate the feasibility of developing a full kidney cancer screening clinical trial.


People taking part in a pioneering lung screening trial in Leeds will now also be checked for kidney cancer following additional funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research.


A new study, led by Urological Malignancies lead Professor Grant Stewart, will investigate whether an extra scan for kidney cancer can be effectively introduced to mobile lung screening programmes. The study follows Professor Stewart's 2020 Nature Reviews Urology paper examining the feasibility of kidney cancer screening.


Around 6 in 10 people with kidney cancer do not experience any symptoms, and they are often only diagnosed during tests for another condition or reason. This means over a third of patients are diagnosed at a late stage when the cancer is more difficult to treat. Just 6 in 10 patients with kidney cancer live for five years after diagnosis.


Grant Stewart, Professor of Surgical Oncology at the University of Cambridge and study lead, said: “Kidney cancer is currently a silent and lethal condition. It is often not diagnosed until the disease has passed the point at which we can easily cure it. Given that kidney cancer is largely curable if identified at an early stage when no symptoms are present, there has been international interest for many years amongst the scientific community in developing a potential screening programme for this ‘silent’ cancer.


“To establish if screening is possible, we will piggyback on the Leeds Lung Health Check and offer an extra CT scan for kidney cancer to those taking part in this important clinical trial. The extra scan will take just 10 seconds.


“This will be the first study in the world to address uncertainties and test the clinical rationale and logistics required to see if we can develop a full kidney cancer screening clinical trial within a lung health check programme. By the end of the feasibility study, we will understand whether we can and should undertake a full kidney cancer screening clinical trial as we’ll know whether people are likely to take up this extra scan.”


Andrew Macnamara's story demonstrates the importance of screening to catching kidney cancer while it's treatable. He said: "They told me something had shown up on the scan I’d had for my lungs. They had caught the top of my kidney on the lung scan and noticed that it was enlarged, they said I needed a further scan to find out why." Andrew made a full recovery after nephrectomy and got the all-clear at the end of 2020.


"I think adding kidney scans to the Leeds Lung Health Check is a good thing. I was lucky that the doctors noticed something out of the ordinary on my lung scan, as they caught the top of the kidney, but I then needed to have a separate scan at hospital to fully check my kidneys. If they can scan the whole of the kidneys with the lungs at the same time that will be fantastic."


This trial is funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, delivered in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council.

The Cambridge Urological Malignancies Programme is part of the CRUK Cambridge Centre, funded by Cancer Research UK Major Centre Award C9685/A25117, and supported by the NIHR Cambridge BRC.