The trial of the test, which can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear, will be conducted in eight areas of England

Blood test

The NHS has launched the world’s largest trial of a new blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear.

The first people to take part will have blood samples taken at mobile testing clinics in retail parks and other community locations.

The Galleri test checks for the earliest signs of cancer in the blood sample. The first-of-its-kind NHS-Galleri trial aims to recruit 140,000 volunteers in eight areas of England to see how well the test works in the NHS.

NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, commented: ‘This quick and simple blood test could mark the beginning of a revolution in cancer detection and treatment here and around the world.

‘By finding cancer before signs and symptoms even appear, we have the best chance of treating it and we can give people the best possible chance of survival.

‘The NHS has a successful track record of leading the way on innovations in cancer diagnosis and treatment, from CAR-T therapy to COVID-friendly drugs.

‘The Galleri blood test, if successful, could play a major part in achieving our NHS Long Term Plan ambition to catch three-quarters of cancers at an early stage, when they are easier to treat.’

Dame Cally Palmer, NHS National Director for Cancer, said: ‘It is an absolute priority to speed up the earlier detection of cancer to improve survival, and this trial has the potential to do just that across a range of types of cancer. We are very grateful to all the people who will be taking part in this important initiative, which could help us save many more lives in the future.’

Galleri test

Research has shown that the Galleri test is particularly effective at finding cancers that are typically difficult to identify early, such as head and neck, bowel, lung, pancreatic, and throat cancers.

It works by finding chemical changes in fragments of genetic code-cell-free DNA that leaks from tumours into the bloodstream. The NHS is currently inviting tens of thousands of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities aged between 50 and 77 years to take part. Participants, who must not have had a cancer diagnosis in the last 3 years, will be asked to give a blood sample at a local mobile clinic. They will then be invited back after 12 months, and again at 2 years, to give further samples.

The NHS-Galleri trial is part of the NHS’s efforts to increase the proportion of cancers detected early by the end of the period covered by the NHS Long Term Plan. It is being run by Cancer Research UK and the King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit in partnership with the NHS and healthcare company, GRAIL, which developed the Galleri test.

The trial is operating with the support of eight NHS cancer alliances across England that span Cheshire and Merseyside, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, the North East, West Midlands, East Midlands, East of England, Kent and Medway, and South East London. For the purposes of the trial, only people living in these areas will be invited.

Initial results of the study are expected by 2023 and, if successful, NHS England plans to extend the roll-out to a further 1 million people in 2024 and 2025.

Patients whose cancers are found early typically have a broader range of treatment options available to them, which can be curative and are often less aggressive. Those whose cancers are found at the earliest stage typically have a chance of survival five to 10 times greater than at those found at stage four.

Credit: 

Lead Image: luchschenF/stock.adobe.com

Image 1: luchschenF/stock.adobe.com