The Cancer and Primary Care Research International Network (Ca-PRI) is an open, multidisciplinary network for researchers in primary cancer care and related areas. Ca-PRI was founded in 2008 and welcomes researchers from all disciplines related to research and development in the fields of cancer care in primary care. Ca-PRI promotes greater international collaboration in primary care and cancer research primarily by supporting networking and arranging a yearly conference. Focus is on the role of primary care throughout the cancer journey from prevention to palliative care. Thus, research aspects are:

Prevention and awareness

It is estimated that up to a third of cancers are preventable, and hence that cancer control efforts must include lifestyle advice to encourage individuals to modify potentially damaging behaviours.

Primary care is well placed to contribute to these efforts, including in the provision of smoking cessation services and advice on physical exercise and diet, although there is a need for further work on the most effective interventions for each of these factors.

Similarly there is recognition of the need to examine the range of understanding of and response to the signs and symptoms of potential cancer in order to promote earlier diagnosis, and in particular to compare these in different health care contexts.

Early detection and diagnostic pathway

It is recognised that primary care has a crucial role to play in awareness raising of cancer symptoms, responding to symptoms as they present in primary care and undertaking appropriate and timely investigations and referrals.

Symptoms of cancer are very common in primary care, and there is an emerging body of evidence underpinning more effective and comprehensive cancer risk assessment.

This includes the use of new diagnostic algorithms based on symptoms and risk factors. Further, there is much to be gained from comparisons of the cancer diagnostic process in different contexts and countries.

Screening

Primary care plays an important role in the delivery of cancer screening to patients, whether in support of organised screening programmes at a national or regional level, or opportunistic approaches to individuals accessing health care services.

Systematic reviews examining the evidence for strategies to increase participation in screening have identified a number of effective primary care based approaches (such as endorsement by a family practitioner, or telephone counselling).

However, strategies to improve uptake typically produce only incremental increases and there is a need to further develop an evidence base for effective interventions for diverse populations, ideally informed by comparative studies in across different health care settings.

Follow-up and survivorship

Although cancer care has traditionally been provided in secondary care, the role of primary care in follow-up following initial treatment is the focus of a great deal of interest in many countries, including the development and comparison of models of follow-up for those patients where monitoring for recurrence and addressing psychosocial issues can be effectively and safely delivered the primary care.

Similarly, as the number of patients living with and beyond cancer is increasing globally due to changes in population demographics and improved cancer rates, the health care needs of this patient group are increasingly recognised as is the role of primary care cancer in contributing to the provision of patient-centred information on dealing with physical, psychosocial as well as financial and family concerns.

End-of-life

Primary care provides palliative and end of life care to the majority of cancer (and non-cancer) patients throughout the world; there have been a number of important initiatives in several countries in recent years to strengthen the evidence base for this aspect of care.

However, there is a continued need for better clarification and standardisation of definitions of end of life care. Models of good practice need to be developed and evaluated.

Clinical communication

Primary care providers have a vital role in communicating cancer risk to patients with or without symptoms. A variety of mechanisms exist to underpin risk communication in primary care and further evidence is required to identify the most effective strategies.

Further, sharing of clinical information between various healthcare providers is a vital element of effective cancer control.

There is evidence from many countries around the world of delays in cancer diagnosis arising from poor communication and again more research and evidence is needed to address these issues.

Conceptual and methodological issues in research in the field

There is a growing recognition that international high quality research in early diagnosis of cancer is hindered by a lack of consensus on definitions and methods used in early diagnosis research. For example there is no widespread agreement on defining “time to diagnosis” or how to measure it.

There are challenging measurement and methodological issues in this kind of research – such as recall bias, dealing with long-term symptoms and asymptomatic presentation. Existing literature uses a variety of definitions and methodological approaches to early diagnosis research making international comparisons difficult.

To address this need for consistency in terminology and methods a number of Consensus Working Groups have been proposed in areas including early diagnosis and survivorship, achieving consensus and consistency in methodological approaches which will underpin future international collaborative research efforts.

Ca-PRI is led by the Executive group whose most prominent task is to ensure that the international network exists and is active. However, no network exits without each member being active and we hope that you may want to contribute and obtain the advantages of being member.

Aim & Tasks

The network has three main ambitions:

  • Support and stimulate network.
  • Encourage to and support comparative studies.
  • Creating an environment for doing international collaborative studies.

The aim, therefore, of the Ca-PRI Network is to provide a mechanism by which researchers from different countries in this field can come together and share expertise and, ideally, develop new international collaborative proposals. Further:

  • primary care and cancer research could benefit from access to larger and more diverse patient populations - studies in this field have typically been based on relatively small numbers and international collaboration is one mechanism through which more substantive studies might be developed
  • there is much to be gained from comparing health data in areas such as early diagnosis, screening and survivorship from different countries
  • differences in diagnostic intervals, survival, screening rates etc provide important clues in elucidating the most effective roles for primary care in cancer control.