Largest ever UK lung cancer screening study seeks to detect lung cancer early amongst at-risk Londoners and supports development of a new blood test for early detection of cancer  

04/12/2018 00:00 
Today sees the official announcement of plans by University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) and UCL to embark upon the largest ever lung cancer screening project in the UK.

The SUMMIT Study, which will begin in early 2019, has two aims: to detect lung cancer early amongst at-risk Londoners when the chance of successful treatment and survival from Britain’s biggest cancer killer is greatest; and to support the development of a new blood test for the early detection of multiple cancer types, including lung cancer. In addition, the study will provide evidence to inform a potential national lung cancer screening programme – currently in England, people are offered screening for breast, bowel and cervical cancer, but not lung cancer.

The study is a key work programme of the UCLH Cancer Collaborative, which brings together healthcare organisations across north and east London, to improve early cancer diagnosis, outcomes and care for patients.

The SUMMIT Study will be delivered by UCLH in close collaboration with UCL and GRAIL, Inc. (a US healthcare company focused on the early detection of cancer). The study aims to recruit approximately 50,000 men and women aged 50-77 from north and east London. Half of the participants will be people at high risk of lung and other cancers due to a significant smoking history (Group A), and the other half will be people who are not at high risk for cancer based on smoking history (Group B). All participants will provide a blood sample, which GRAIL will analyse to evaluate whether lung or other cancers can be detected early through genomic signals in the blood.

Participants in Group A will be identified by inviting residents of north and east London who may meet the eligibility criteria based on their smoking history for a lung health check. In addition to providing a blood sample, participants who are eligible and decide to join Group A will be screened for lung cancer using a low dose CT scan (imaging technology proven to detect lung cancer). The SUMMIT Study will also offer smoking cessation support to smokers who would like to stop.

People in Group B will be invited via a letter from their general practitioner (GP) and, if eligible and interested in participating, will attend a study site in order to consent to join the study, donate a blood sample and fill out a questionnaire.

One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime (1); lung cancer alone causes around 35,000 deaths per year in the UK. Early diagnosis is key to effective treatment and increasing survival for all cancers, but particularly for lung cancer: currently around 75% of lung cancers are diagnosed at a late stage - stages 3 and 4. Only 25% are diagnosed at the earlier stages 1 and 2. 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. (2)

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 – people who smoke or used to smoke, aged between 50 and 77.

“We have a common goal with our partner GRAIL with the SUMMIT Study – the early detection of cancer. By working together, we hope to bring lung cancer screening to people in the United Kingdom, while we also deepen our understanding of potential new technologies for early cancer detection.”

Prof Geoff Bellingan, medical director for cancer and surgery at UCLH and professor of intensive care medicine at UCL, said:

“The SUMMIT Study is the largest lung screening programme in the UK. It provides us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change how lung cancer is diagnosed – both by paving the way for a national screening programme here in the UK and supporting global efforts to develop a novel blood test for early detection of multiple cancers, including lung cancer.”

Anne-Renee Hartman, vice president of Clinical Development at GRAIL, said:

"We are excited to partner with UCL and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on the SUMMIT Study, as we continue to evaluate new ways to improve the early detection of cancer. The study will support the development of our blood test for the early detection of multiple cancer types in a diverse population, including those at higher risk for cancer due to significant smoking history."

This study follows a smaller pilot study in 2016, led by UCL, in north London in which approximately 2,000 residents who smoke or have smoked regularly in the past were invited for a lung health check, including a low dose CT scan at UCLH.

  1. Cancer Research UK: Cancer mortality statistics (2014). . Accessed 4 Aug 2015. [Internet]. Available from: 
  2. Cancer Research UK. Statistics and outlook for lung cancer (2014). . Accessed 4 Aug 2015. [Internet]. Available from: 
  • Notes to editors

  • Anton Franks

    Anton Franks, age 62, is a researcher and a former English and Drama Teacher and teacher educator from Finsbury Park in Islington. He was invited for a lung health check, via a letter from his GP, in March 2017 as part of the pilot study.

    Anton said: “As someone who used to smoke, the health of my lungs had always been in my mind so I was really pleased to be invited for this check and didn’t think twice about attending. Everyone at the appointment was very friendly and the checks were quite straightforward - including a blowing test to check my lung capacity and a low dose CT scan.”

    Anton’s scan revealed a nodule (a small spot or scar) on his lung. In almost all cases these are harmless, but they need to be checked out as in a small number of cases they can be a small early cancer which might grow. Anton was invited back for another CT scan after three months. This scan revealed that the nodule had grown which was a concern. He was quickly referred to UCLH and was offered a biopsy or an operation to fully remove the suspicious nodule. After discussions with his doctors, Anton decided that he would have the operation. He was informed after the operation that the nodule was cancerous, but it had been fully removed and he would not require further treatment.

    Anton added: “I feel very fortunate that I was invited, and went along to the lung health check so that the cancerous nodule could be removed before it caused further problems. I had no symptoms that anything was wrong in my lungs, and without the scan this could have been left unchecked until it got much worse. It’s really important that lung screening is going to be extended to many more people in London as part of this study.”

  • Patient stories

  • Jo Cambridge

    Jo Cambridge lives in Islington and is a professor of autoimmune diseases and a keen horse rider. She was invited for a lung health check, via a letter from her GP, in early 2017 as part of the pilot study.

    Jo said: “I am very fit and healthy but, as a former smoker, I was keen to attend the lung health check to make sure that everything was ok with my lungs. I wasn’t apprehensive about attending at all. The appointment was very friendly and efficient – I completed a thorough questionnaire and had several health checks with a nurse before having a low dose CT scan.”

    Jo’s scan showed areas of slight shadowing. She was informed about this by letter and invited to return for a repeat scan to make sure that all was well. The second scan showed that her lungs were now clear and there were no problems to report.

    Jo said: “I was obviously very pleased that the second scan revealed that the shadowing had gone from my lungs. But I was even more pleased to have been invited for the lung health check in the first place. As a keen horse rider, jogger and a working mum, my health is very important to me. The lung health check was a welcome opportunity for me to get my lungs checked out and it’s great that many more Londoners will have the opportunity to do the same as part of this study.”

  • FAQs

  • About the SUMMIT Study

    SUMMIT is a prospective cohort study that is designed to enrol approximately 50,000 men and women who live in north and east London. The study will be made up of two groups. Group A will be comprised of 25,000 individuals aged between 50 and 77 who meet the eligibility criteria based on their smoking history. They will be invited to participate in a lung health check at designated NHS clinics in their area to assess their lung health and determine their eligibility. Eligible individuals will include those who meet a certain level of risk. People who consent to participate in Group A will complete a health history questionnaire, be screened using low dose CT and will provide blood samples at multiple time points during the study. Group B will be made up of 25,000 people who do not have significant smoking histories. They will participate by attending an appointment at a study site in their local area, signing a consent form, donating a blood sample and filling out a health history questionnaire. All participants will return to the study sites for two further annual visits. The health status of all participants will be followed for up to ten years after the last participant completes their last study visit.
  • About UCLH

    UCLH (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) provides first-class acute and specialist services in six hospitals in Central London. UCLH is committed to education and research and forms part of UCLPartners which in March 2009 was officially designated as one of the UK's first academic health science centres by the Department of Health. UCLH works closely with UCL, translating research into treatments for patients. For more information visit We are also on Facebook (UCLHNHS), Twitter (@uclh), Youtube (UCLHvideo) and instagram (@uclh).

    UCLH Cancer Collaborative is the Cancer Alliance for north and east London and brings together hospital trusts, GPs, health service commissioners, local authorities and patients to improve early cancer diagnosis, outcomes and care for patients in our area. Working with our stakeholders, our mission is to achieve world-leading patient outcomes and experience for our local population.

  • About UCL (University College London)

    UCL was founded in 1826. We were the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has over 41,500 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff. Our annual income is more than £1 billion. For more information visit, follow us on Twitter @uclnews, or watch our YouTube channel

  • About GRAIL

    GRAIL is a healthcare company whose mission is to detect cancer early, when it can be cured. GRAIL is using the power of high-intensity sequencing, population-scale clinical studies, and state-of-the-art computer science and data science to enhance the scientific understanding of cancer biology, and to develop and commercialize pioneering products for the early detection of cancer. The company is located in Menlo Park, California and Hong Kong. It is supported by leading global investors and pharmaceutical, technology, and healthcare companies. For more information, please visit
  • About the National Institute for Health Research

    The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): improving the health and wealth of the nation through research. Established by the Department of Health, the NIHR:

    • funds high quality research to improve health
    • trains and supports health researchers
    • provides world-class research facilities
    • works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all
    • involves patients and the public at every step

    For further information, visit the NIHR website (

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