The NHS is launching the world’s biggest trial of a potentially life-saving blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer.
The Galleri test – which is already available in the US – can detect cancers that are not routinely screened for, and it can find where the disease is coming from in the body with a high degree of accuracy.
It looks for chemical changes in fragments of genetic code that leak from tumours into the blood – something done by some cancers long before symptoms even appear.
Around 140,000 volunteers in eight areas of England will be recruited to try the Galleri test.
The eight areas involved in the trial will be right here in Greater Manchester, as well as Cheshire and Merseyside, the North East, West Midlands, East Midlands, East of England, Kent and Medway, and southeast London.
The NHS trial – which is being led by the Cancer Research UK and King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit, together with Grail that developed the Galleri test – will invite people from different backgrounds and ethnicities who are aged between 50 and 77 to take part, providing they have had a cancer diagnosis in the last three years.
Blood samples will be taken at mobile testing clinics across the eight areas over the coming weeks, in 12 months’ time, and again in two years.
The first results are expected by 2023 and, if successful, the test could be in use from 2024.
The test is said to have been especially effective at finding cancers that are more difficult to identify early, such as head and neck, bowel, lung, pancreatic, and throat cancers – but it cannot detect all cancers.
For this reason, it would not replace NHS screening programmes such as those for breast, cervical, and bowel cancer.
The NHS said the test could play a major part in the health service’s ambition to catch 75% of cancers at an early stage, which is when they are easier to treat.
Speaking as the test trial launches, Amanda Pritchard – Chief Executive at the NHS – said: “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.”
Professor Peter Sasieni – director of the unit and one of the trial’s lead investigators – added: “The test could be a game-changer for early cancer detection and we are excited to be leading this important research.
“Cancer screening can find cancers earlier when they are more likely to be treated successfully, but not all types of screening work.”
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