Published on: 27 November 2020

An innovative blood test that may spot more than 50 types of cancer will be piloted by the NHS in a world-leading programme, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced today.

The Galleri blood test, developed by GRAIL, can detect early stage cancers through a simple blood test, and will be piloted with 165,000 patients in a world-first deal struck by NHS England.

Research on patients with signs of cancer has found that the test can identify many types that are difficult to diagnose early, such as head and neck, ovarian, pancreatic, oesophageal and some blood cancers.

If the NHS programme shows that the test also works as expected for people without symptoms, it will be rolled out to become routinely available.

Sir Simon Stevens, said: “While the good news is that cancer survival is now at a record high, over a thousand people every day are newly diagnosed with cancer. Early detection – particularly for hard-to-treat conditions like ovarian and pancreatic cancer – has the potential to save many lives. This promising blood test could therefore be a game-changer in cancer care, helping thousands more people to get successful treatment. This trial again confirms that the NHS is at the forefront of cutting edge treatments and technology.”

The test could help meet the NHS Long Term Plan goal of increasing the proportion of cancers caught early, which can be the key to reducing cancer mortality. Patients whose condition is diagnosed at ‘stage one’ typically have between five and 10 times the chance of surviving compared with those found at ‘stage four’.

The trial will include 140,000 participants aged 50 to 79 who have no symptoms but will have annual blood tests for three years.

People will be identified through NHS records and approached to take part. Anyone with a positive test will be referred for investigation in the NHS.

Another 25,000 people with possible cancer symptoms will also be offered testing to speed up their diagnosis after being referred to hospital in the normal way.

Results of these studies would be expected by 2023, and if outcomes are positive, then they would be expanded to involve around one million participants across 2024 and 2025.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: This exciting and ground-breaking new blood test from GRAIL will give us another tool to give more people the very best chance of survival, demonstrating how the UK continues to lead the way in using the latest innovative treatments to help patients.

“Many of us know a loved one who has battled against cancer and have seen first-hand the impact of this deadly disease."

Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England and improvement, said: “The NHS has set itself an ambitious target, to find three-quarters of cancers at an early stage, when they have the highest chance of cure. Tests like this may help us get there far faster, and I am excited to see how this cutting-edge technology will work out, as we test it in clinics across the NHS.”

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