MFT lung screening research among top recruiting cancer studies

Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust’s (MFT) ground-breaking qUEST research, part of the Manchester Lung Health Checks programme, has been named among the top-recruiting cancer studies in England.

The Manchester Lung Health Study (qUEST), which checks for lung cancer in community settings, recruited 3,143 patients between September 2019 and March 2020 – the fourth highest-recruiting cancer study in NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) league tables for 2019/2020.

Lung Health Check trucks at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Lung Health Check trucks at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester

MFT launched the Lung Health Checks programme in August 2018, following a successful pilot study with The University of Manchester. Mobile screening units, or ‘trucks’ equipped with mobile CT scanners and other diagnostic equipment, carry out tests in the community to identify cancer early – when it is more treatable.

Current and past smokers over the age of 55 are invited for a check-up when the trucks are in their local area.

Dr Phil Crosbie, Lung Cancer Physician at Wythenshawe Hospital, and Clinical Senior Lecturer at The University of Manchester, leads the study. He said:

“Lung cancer is the leading cause of premature death in the UK. Manchester, particularly the north of the city, has the highest number of lung cancer cases anywhere in England, with many detected at a later stage when the disease is more difficult to treat.

“The Manchester Lung Health Checks programme and qUEST research study have been a massive success, and NHS England is now piloting our model across 10 sites in England. With screening now taking place in convenient locations out in the community, such as supermarkets and shopping centres, we’re finding more patients with the disease, and more importantly, at an earlier stage when we can still treat it.

Uptake in Manchester has been fantastic, especially given we only started in September 2019. We’re incredibly proud of this research and the impact it will have on so many people here in Manchester.

QUEST TEAM L-R: Thomas Harding (Clinical Trials Administrator), Sara Waplington (Senior Clinical Trials Coordinator), Sofia Fiouni (Research Nurse), Jane Shaw (Research Practitioner) and Dr Phil Crosbie.

QUEST TEAM L-R: Thomas Harding (Clinical Trials Administrator), Sara Waplington (Senior Clinical Trials Coordinator), Sofia Fiouni (Research Nurse), Jane Shaw (Research Practitioner) and Dr Phil Crosbie.

The Lung Health Checks screening service is led by the Rapid Access to Pulmonary Investigation Days (RAPID) team at Wythenshawe Hospital, with the research arm led by Wythenshawe Hospital’s Thoracic Oncology Research Hub (TORCH) team and The University of Manchester. In 2019, MFT’s Lung Cancer Team won the Cancer Care Team of the Year award at the prestigious BMJ Awards, while the TORCH team won Best Community Project at 2017’s Greater Manchester Clinical Research Awards.

From 4 August 2020, existing lung screening patients have been invited back for their 12 month check-ups at trucks outside Manchester’s Etihad Stadium, following a pause in service delivery due to precautions around COVID-19.

NHS and care staff standing outside of the lung health checks screening trucks at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. All are socially distanced and wearing face masks.

Lung Health Checks resuming at the Etihad Stadium, August 2020

Over 850 qUEST patients have also taken part in a sub-study analysing blood and nasal swab samples to identify genetic biomarkers for lung cancer, which could help early detection of the disease.

Marie Kirwan, TORCH Nurse Manager, added:

“This has been an incredible achievement so far. Our team of Clinical Nurse Practitioners, Research Nurses, Trial Coordinators and Administrators have made a fantastic effort to support patients and recruit them to the study, particularly those from communities who wouldn’t normally attend screening or participate in research, namely seldom heard communities.

“We worked closely with the lung cancer screening service throughout, as well as colleagues from the Clinical Research Network Greater Manchester, who have enabled and helped the research team to take patient blood and swab samples for our biomarker study. This is such a wonderful example of how effective collaboration can embed research as an integral part of clinical service.”

Dr Abdul Ashish, CRN Greater Manchester Specialty Lead for Respiratory Disorders and a Consultant Respiratory Physician at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, said

“It is fantastic news to see well over 3,000 patients taking part in the Manchester Lung Health Study last year. We are working hard to make clinical research accessible for all patients across our region and this approach of taking research out into the community is an excellent way of achieving this goal.

“A lot of non-COVID-19 research rightly had to be paused during the height of the pandemic, but many studies are now safely being re-opened to patient recruitment and I would encourage anyone who’s been invited for a screening with the team to take advantage of this very worthwhile opportunity.”

qUEST has also received support from the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) to cover trial and patient expenses, and NIHR Greater Manchester Clinical Research Network (CRN), who provided nursing staff.