NHS Scotland

Research advancements

"There are advances being made today that will help increase early detection and cancer survival rates. ‘Liquid biopsy’ technology is extremely exciting. It works by detecting and measuring circulating tumour cells and circulating tumour DNA, and protein levels in the blood. It could help identify cancers at a very early stage.

Another important step is to be able to cure the cancers that have been detected early, without causing short or long-term side effects. Recent advances in radiotherapy enable high doses to be delivered - extremely accurately – so that small cancers can be cured, while causing minimal damage to the surrounding tissues. The best example of this is the use of stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) for lung cancer. New advances in minimally invasive surgery also enable patients to be cured, while significantly reducing the risk of lasting damage.

Add to that national screening programmes for cervical, bowel and breast cancer that are having a huge impact on early detection and survival rates. Ultimately, the more cancers that are detected early, the more people who can benefit from these new technologies and a more hopeful future."

Anthony Chalmers, Professor of Clinical Oncology, University of Glasgow

Lung cancer research advancements...

Stephen Harrow, Consultant Clinical Oncologist and Lead Clinician for Radiotherapy Research at The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre:

"Lung cancer is not as hopeless a diagnosis as it was even a few years ago – a lot has changed in recent years.

We have access to brand new specialised radiotherapy equipment that have enabled us to develop and implement techniques to treat lung cancer more aggressively where previously we may only have been able to offer palliative treatment.

At the same time as having greater control of the cancer, we are able to minimise the side effects of the treatments by targeting the cancer more accurately, thereby reducing damage to the healthy surrounding tissues. 

As clinicians, we want people to be diagnosed with lung cancer early as it opens up more treatment options such as surgery, radiotherapy and drug treatment. It is really important that patients, relatives and health care professionals are aware of the advances in the treatment of lung cancer and do not ignore symptoms that could turn out to be successfully treatable cancers."