A trial of a potentially game-changing blood test that aims to detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear has been launched on Monday by the UK National Health Service (NHS).
The NHS disclosed that the trial is being led by the Cancer Research UK and King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit together with Grail Inc, US biotechnology company, which developed the test.
The trial, named “Galleri blood test”, examines DNA in blood to find out whether any of it comes from cancer cells. The test works by looking for chemical changes in fragments of genetic code that leak from tumours into the bloodstream.
The test does not detect all cancers and does not replace the screening programmes of the NHS for breast, cervical and bowel cancer.
Thousands of Britons are expected to take part in the trial. The participants will have their blood samples taken at mobile testing clinics and other facilities across the country.
Persons aged between 50 and 77 have been asked to take part in the trial.
The participants will reportedly be invited back after 12 months, and again in two years, to give further samples.
The NHS aims for 140,000 volunteers across eight areas of England to take part in the trial.
Peter Sasieni, director of the Cancer Research UK and King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit, said the Galleri test “could be a game-changer for early cancer detection”.
“We need to study the Galleri test carefully to find out whether it can significantly reduce the number of cancers diagnosed at a late stage,” Sasieni, who is one of the trial’s lead investigators, said.
“Cancer screening can find cancers earlier when they are more likely to be treated successfully, but not all types of screening work.”
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, in a statement, said the blood test could mark the beginning of a revolution in cancer detection and treatment.
“This quick and simple blood test could mark the beginning of a revolution in cancer detection and treatment here and around the world,” he said.
“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.
“So if you are invited, please take part – you could be helping us to revolutionise cancer care and protect yourself.”
Sajid Javid, UK health secretary, also said: “Early diagnosis can save lives and this revolutionary new test can detect cancers before symptoms even appear, giving people the best possible chance of beating the disease.”
The first results from the study are expected by 2023. If successful, the NHS plans to extend the rollout to a further one million people in 2024 and 2025.