Dr Sarah Bailey
Senior Research Fellow
+44 (0) 1392 726445
College House, University of Exeter, St Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK
Sarah is a Senior Research Fellow in the Discovery Group, and part of the CanTest collaborative, based in Primary Care within the University of Exeter Medical School. CanTest aims to assess the accuracy, safety, cost effectiveness and suitability of a range of diagnostic methods and tools to improve cancer diagnostics in primary care. Her research interests include the use of routine blood tests to identify patients at risk of cancer in primary care, the impact of multimorbidity on cancer diagnosis, the evaluation of new cancer detection strategies in primary care, including the faecal immunochemical test (FIT) for colorectal cancer.
Upon moving to the Discovery Group led by Prof. Willie Hamilton in 2014, Sarah began her PhD on the association between thrombocytosis (raised platelet count) and cancer diagnosis, which was completed in Autumn 2016. Specifically, her PhD found that thrombocytosis is an important risk marker of undiagnosed cancer in primary care, particularly in men aged over 40 years. This work has had a significant impact on clinical practice since its publication in 2017, and was the top-rated paper of the British Journal of General Practice in that year. This is one of her personal highlights from her career to date, alongside being interviewed for Radio 4’s Inside Health programme, learning to drive a tractor, and swimming an entire length of the University’s pool underwater.
Evaluating ethnic differences in blood markers of cancer in primary care. Co-Principal Investigator. Cancer Research UK £136,365. 2021 - 2023
The SPOtting Cancer among Comorbidities (SPOC) study. Supporting clinical decision making in patients with symptoms of cancer. Co-applicant and Work Package lead. NIHR Programme Grant. £1,498,126. 2021 - 2026
Exploring the molecular mechanisms underlying pre-diagnostic thrombocytosis in lung cancer patients and evaluating its diagnostic value. Co-applicant. GW4 BioMed MRC Doctoral Training Partnership. £75,000. 2019 - 2022
The risk of cancer with high normal platelet counts (NORMA). Co-applicant. Department of Health, Policy Research Unit (PRU) in Cancer Awareness, Screening and Early Diagnosis. £131,699. 2018
A feasibility study of virtual reality as a therapeutic intervention in children with ambulatory cerebral palsy. Co-applicant. NIHR Research for Patient Benefit programme. £227,431. 2014 - 2016
Involving families in developing ideas for research, designing collaborative studies, seeking research grants and producing outputs directly useful to families. Co-applicant. Cerebra. £796,303. 2014 - 2019
- CanTest Travelling Fellowship (April 2019)
- Cancer Research UK Early Diagnosis Conference bursary (February 2019)
- Lead author of top rated paper in the British Journal of General Practice (2018)
- Lead author of Royal College of General Practitioner's Research Paper of the Year (Cancer) 2018
- The Cancer and Primary Care Research International Network conference poster prize (2017)
- South West Society for Academic Primary Care best junior abstract award (2016)
- University of Exeter EU Facilitation Fund (2016)
- Runner up patient poster prize, National Early Diagnosis Initiative conference, London (2015)
I welcome enquiries from prospective students with interests in primary care research and cancer diagnosis. If you have a proposal that aligns with my research interests, please get in touch.
PhD in Medical Science - University of Exeter
Masters of Public Health - Cardiff University
BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science (Physiology) - Cardiff University
Research group links
- Cancer detection in primary care
- Evaluating and mdoelling the impact of new cancer detection strategies
- Faecal immunochemical test (FIT) for colorectal cancer
- Using routine blood tests available in primary care to diagnose cancer
- Risk markers and predictors of cancer
Observational data experience
- The Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) and linked datasets
- National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS) data
- Purpose-built datasets for evaluation and research within the NHS
- Caerphilly Prospective Study
Publications by category
Publications by year
External Engagement and Impact
Invited lectures & workshops
- Diagnosing cancer with routine healthcare data. The Bazalgette Series: the role for data across the South West, Exeter, 2018.
- Introducing the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) in the South West of England. Cancer Research UK Cascade Event, Exeter, 2018.
- Cancer Research at the University of Exeter. Fundraising dinner for the University of Exeter, London, 2018.
- Thrombocytosis in primary care. University of Malmo, Sweden, 2017.
- How routinely collected data helps cancer diagnosis. The Hunts Community Cancer Network cancer survivor's conference, Huntingdon, 2017.
- The Daily Express. 'Simple test can detect early signs of bowel cancer'. 19th January 2021
- The I. 'Easy new test for colorectal cancer could save lives'. 19th January 2021
- The Daily Telegraph. '£4 bowel cancer test should be used more widely to save lives, researchers say'. 19th January 2021
- The Daily Mail. '£4 bowel cancer breakthrough'. 19th January 2021
- NIHR Alert. 'Results from a routine blood test could help in early detection of cancer'. 14th October 2020
- BBC Radio 4 Inside Health (radio interview), 4th July 2017
- The Guardian Weekly (print) ’Blood test for cancer’, 2nd June 2017
- ITV West Country (television interview), 23rd May 2017
- BBC Radio Devon (radio interview), 23rd May 2017
- The Times (print) ‘Blood test could save thousands from cancer’ [front page], 23rd May 2017
- The Guardian (print) ‘Common blood test points way to early cancer diagnosis’, 23rd May 2017
Academic tutor for BSc Medical Sciences
Tutor on Making Sense of Evidence module for BMBS, including delivering workshops on diagnostics
Professional Training Year provider for BSc Medical Sciences
- Melissa Barlow, University of Exeter (2019 - 2022) Which of the histological subtypes of lung cancer are associated with pre/peri-diagnostic raised platelet levels? (PhD supervisor)
- Jan Clark, University of Exeter (2018) Investigating outcomes for patients with thrombocytosis (Masters dissertation supervisor)
- Emily Ankus, University of South Florida (2017) Determining 3% risk for underlying malignancy in patients with a high normal platelet count (summer placement)
- Punit Sevak, University of Exeter (2017) The association between red cell distribution width (RDW) and undiagnosed cancer in primary care: an observational cohort study (summer placement)
- Katie Ho, University of Exeter (2017) The association between idiopathic thrombosis, thrombocytosis, and cancer diagnosis in primary care: an observational cohort study using electronic medical records (summer placement)