The largest ever lung cancer screening project undertaken in the UK has launched in London, aiming to detect lung cancer early among at-risk citizens.

The study, conducted by SUMMIT and supported by which is supported by NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, also aims to support the development of a new blood test for the early detection of multiple cancer types, including lung cancer.

It will recruit around 50,000 men and women aged 50-77 from north and east London, half of whom will be at high risk of lung and other cancers due to a significant smoking history, and the other half who are not at high risk for cancer based on smoking history.

The news comes just a week after an All.Can initiative survey found that cancer patients in the UK have reported they continue to face difficulties in receiving a timely diagnosis, with one in five waiting over six months for a cancer diagnosis.

Prof Sam Janes, professor of respiratory medicine at UCL/UCLH and chief investigator of the SUMMIT study, said:

“Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in the UK because most people only experience symptoms when the cancer is at an advanced stage when it is very difficult to treat.

“This large-scale study gives us a unique opportunity to detect lung cancer much earlier when treatment is more likely to be successful amongst those proven to be most at risk.”

Currently, only 25% of people with lung cancer are diagnosed at the first and second stage.

If diagnosed at the earliest stage, 70% of lung cancer patients will survive for at least a year, compared to around 14% for people diagnosed with the most advanced stage of the disease. There is already screening available in the UK for breast, bowel and cervical cancer, but not lung cancer.