The world’s largest trial of a revolutionary new blood test which detects 50 types of cancer has started in Walsall, with thousands of residents invited to take part. The potentially lifesaving GalleriTM test can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear. The test is being piloted by the NHS in a programme across eight areas of the country, and Walsall is the first location in the West Midlands to take part.
Thousands of letters have been sent to selected residents aged 50 to 77, inviting them to participate in the trial and attend the mobile clinic on Sainsbury’s car park on Reedswood Way. The clinic, which opened this week, will be there until December before moving on to more locations in the West Midlands.
Appointments are still available and people are being urged to come forward if they have received a letter before the mobile clinic moves on to Redditch.
Among those taking part in the trial is 76-year-old Bill Anslow from Willenhall.
He said: “I’ve come as my family has been deeply impacted by cancer. My mum died of cancer five years ago and my wife Kathleen was diagnosed with stomach and oesophageal cancer and died earlier this year.”
“It’s a horrible, horrible disease and it’s terrifying to think about the effects cancer has on people. What my wife went through was terrible and I wouldn’t want that for anyone.”
“As soon as I received my letter, I got in touch straight away. It’s a little bit of time out of your day and doesn’t hurt at all, but is really worth doing. I think anybody who is invited to take part should do it.”
Also taking part is 71-year-old June Humphries from Bloxwich. She said: “I saw the trial mentioned on the news and so when I received my letter I thought, well why not. My sister and a close friend died of cancer so anything I can do to help with cancer research I will.
“The nurses here have been absolutely brilliant and so I would say to other people who have been invited just do it. It’s an hour out of your life and it’s for a good cause.”
“Cancer affects everybody in the world. Everyone knows someone who has cancer or died from it, so hopefully this will help.”
Participants will be asked to give a blood sample and will then be invited back in 12 months, and again in two years, to give further samples.
West Midlands Cancer Alliance is supporting the project by helping to ensure that any local participants who test positive for early signs of cancer get the necessary follow-up appointments.
Masood Ahmed, chief medical officer for Black Country and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We’re excited that Walsall has been chosen as the first location in the West Midlands to host this innovative trial, which has the potential to save thousands of lives in the UK and beyond.”
“We’ve had a great response so far from people wanting to get involved, but there are still spaces available, so if you’ve had a letter we’d strongly encourage you to come forward and be part of a study that has the potential to transform early cancer diagnosis for the future.”
The test is a blood test that research has shown is particularly effective at finding cancers that are difficult to identify early – such as head and neck, bowel, lung, pancreatic, and throat cancers. It works by finding chemical changes in fragments of genetic code – cell-free DNA (cfDNA) – that leak from tumours into the bloodstream.
The NHS-Galleri trial is being run by The Cancer Research UK and King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit in partnership with NHS England and healthcare company GRAIL, which has developed the Galleri test.
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’.
Initial results of the study are expected by 2023 and, if successful, NHS England plans to extend the rollout to a further one million people in 2024 and 2025.
Participants will be advised to continue with their standard NHS screening appointments – for breast, bowel and cervical cancer – and to still contact their GP if they notice any new or unusual symptoms.