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Blood Test That Can Detect 50 Types of Cancer Starts Clinical Trial in U.K.


The United Kingdom’s National Health Service is studying a blood test that can detect 50 types of cancer, in some cases, before symptoms appear. If the test is a success, it will help providers test for and treat various forms of cancer as soon as possible, increasing the patient’s chance of survival. If all goes well, it will bring us one step closer to defeating cancer once and for all. 

A Faster Cancer Diagnosis

The blood test goes by the name Galleri. It checks for the earliest signs of cancer in the blood by examining the person’s DNA and determining whether any of it has come from cancer cells. The results will also point to where in the body the cancer came from.

GRAIL, the company that created the test, says it has shown to be effective at detecting cancers that are notoriously difficult to diagnose at early stages, including lung, bowel, head, neck, pancreatic, and throat cancer.

If patients receive an early diagnosis, usually known as stage one or two, they will have a wider range of treatment options to choose from, some of which will likely be curative or less aggressive than other forms of treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation.

Studies show that patients with cancer in the earliest stages often have five to ten times the chance of survival compared to those in stage three or four.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard celebrated the news. “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,” she said.

“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,” she added.

Other members of the healthcare system praised the country’s decision to take the test to clinical trial.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said, “The U.K.’s world leading scientists continue to pioneer innovative cancer diagnosis and treatments so our brilliant NHS staff have the tools to spot the disease as early as possible and give people the care they need.”

“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.

Ensuring fewer people need treatment for advanced cancer is vital for patient care and another example of the NHS innovating to be more efficient – which will be crucial in bringing down the backlog,” Javid added.

Meanwhile, GRAIL is excited to have the full backing of the NHS.

Sir Harpal Kumar, president of GRAIL Europe, said, “We’re delighted to partner with the NHS to support the NHS Long Term Plan for earlier cancer diagnosis, and we are eager to bring our technology to people in the UK as quickly as we can. The Galleri test can not only detect a wide range of cancer types but can also predict where the cancer is in the body with a high degree of accuracy. The test is particularly strong at detecting deadly cancers and has a very low rate of false positives.”

What Happens Next?

The NHS is now helping the company move the test through the clinical trials process. The health service will recruit up to 140,000 people across England to participate.

At the start of the trial, NHS will take blood samples from the participants at mobile testing clinics in and around the communities where they live. After 12 months, they will be invited back to collect more samples, and again 2 years down the line.

Pritchard said, “If you are invited, please take part – you could be helping us to revolutionise cancer care and protect yourself.”

The government says it has already started inviting people ages 50 to 77 to join the clinical trial. It will only include those living in Cheshire and Merseyside, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, the North East, West Midlands, East Midlands, East of England, Kent and Medway, and South East London.

The initial results aren’t expected until 2023. If it proves successful, the NHS says it will extend the rollout to another one million people in 2024 and 2025.

Stuart Devereux, a fire brigade officer, will be one of the first to participate in the trial.

“Being able to contribute to this study that could save many lives was a very easy decision to make, and it’s not going to take up much of my time,” Devereux said, “Working in the fire service, we save lives by preventing rather than fighting fires and in a similar way I’m keen to be involved in helping the NHS to trial new technology that can detect cancer before symptoms appear. We will only make progress in tackling cancer if people come forward for trials like this.”

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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