Prime Minister announces funding for AI to help with early diagnosis for cancer

Posted on - 21/05/2018
Author: Communications Team

Today the Prime Minister will pledge government funding to develop artificial intelligence (AI) to transform outcomes through early diagnosis of cancer and chronic disease.

Theresa May wants industry and charities to work with the NHS to develop algorithms that can use patient data and lifestyle information to warn GPs when a patient should be referred to an oncologist or another specialist.


The plans envisage at least 50,000 people being diagnosed at an early stage of prostate, ovarian, lung or bowel cancer each year.


It is thought that AI could help prevent 22,000 deaths from cancer each year by 2033, and give patients an additional five years of healthy, independent life by 2035.

Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer, says:


“We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement to invest in new digital technology to support GPs to refer those in need of further tests. Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer and early diagnosis is key to saving lives. More than nine out of ten people diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer survive five years or more, compared to less than one in ten people diagnosed at stage 4. Therefore finding quicker, more effective ways to identify and diagnose bowel cancer earlier is crucial.


“Symptoms of bowel conditions are common and account for one in 12 GP appointments, but given that most of the symptoms won’t be caused by cancer, it can be difficult for GPs to determine which, especially those under 50 years old, need further tests. Last year the charity, with the University of Exeter, Durham University and North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, developed a risk assessment tool to speed up the diagnosis of patients under 50 who often experience significant delays in their diagnosis, reducing their chance of survival significantly. Our research shows that one in five young patients have to visit their GP five times or more before they get their diagnosis and this is simply not acceptable. We look forward to hearing how the Prime Minister proposes to support these types of initiatives in the future so more lives can be saved.”


  • Read more about the charity’s risk assessment tool to support GPs to identify the symptoms of a serious bowel condition for patients aged under-50.
  • Join our campaign to improve early diagnosis for bowel cancer patients
  • Find out about the charity’s research priorities to save lives from bowel cancer