NHS to trial life-saving blood test which can detect 50 different types of cancer

By Sophie Buchan

The NHS is set to trial a blood test that will be able to detect more than 50 types of cancers before symptoms first appear.

The test, named Galleri, aims to detect cancers that are not routinely screened for and will also be able to pinpoint where in the body the disease is coming from.

The reason this test works is that some cancerous tumours are known to shed DNA - known as cell-free DNA (cfDNA) - into an individual's bloodstream a while before an individual would start experiencing any symptoms such as lumps or blood in your pee.

Galleri therefore can detect cancer at the earliest opportunity and thus the potential to save thousands of lives.

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Unfortunately the test does not detect all cancers and will therefore not replace NHS screening programmes, such as those for breast, cervical and bowel cancer - it may also be recommended that the test will be prioritised for those at a higher risk of cancer, including the over 50s - just as it is in the US currently.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard 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.

“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.”

The NHS trial is being led by Cancer Research UK and King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit together with Grail who developed the test.

If successful, it will be available to around a million people in the UK in 2024/25.

Experts have stressed that anyone with symptoms of cancer should always seek help from their GP.

To find information and support on cancer, please visit the Cancer Research UK website here.

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