Author: staff

Over 140,000 people, of which almost 18,500 are from the West Midlands, have volunteered to take part in the world’s largest trial of a blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer, as part of the latest National Health Service (NHS) drive to catch the disease when it is generally easiest to treat.

In just one year since the NHS-Galleri trial began, volunteers from across the country have come forward to have a blood test at mobile clinics in convenient locations, including supermarket and leisure centre car parks and places of worship.

Participants will now be invited to attend two further appointments, spaced roughly 12 months apart.

The NHS Long Term Plan committed to increasing the proportion of cancers caught early, when they are easier to treat, from half to three in four.

NHS ‘one stop shops’ have also already delivered 190,000 additional tests in the Midlands, including for cancer, since the rollout began, with seven community diagnostic centres (CDCs) in the West Midlands offering a range of diagnostic tests and other services closer to patients’ homes, often in the heart of local communities. More CDCs are also in development and will become operational over the next three years.

This trial is part of radical NHS action to tackle cancer, that also includes the successful rollout of targeted lung trucks across the country, with thousands of people invited for checks every month in mobile vehicles, and hundreds of cancers diagnosed earlier.

Initial research has shown that this blood test could help to detect cancers that are typically difficult to identify early, even before symptoms appear – such as head and neck, bowel, lung and pancreatic cancers.

Dr Nigel Sturrock, Regional Medical Director at NHS England – Midlands, said: “Detecting cancer early is key to improving cancer outcomes in the West Midlands which is why we’re tremendously supportive of the NHS-Galleri trial, making it as easy as possible for those most at risk to get vital, lifesaving tests.

“We know that certain cancers are harder to detect and a late diagnosis can be devastating for patients and their families, and this trial means thousands could benefit from a diagnosis even before symptoms appear.”

It is vital that trial participants attend their follow up appointments, so researchers, including teams at The Cancer Research UK and King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trial Unit, can understand whether the test could be used in the future as part of the NHS cancer screening programme.

Not only is this trial a major step in NHS efforts to catch cancers sooner, but trial organisers, and the NHS DigiTrials service, have made particular efforts to achieve representation of people from minority ethnic backgrounds, who are often less likely to take part in medical research studies.

Activity included working with specific GP practices to send invitations to their ethnic minority patient lists, community group briefings, leaflet distribution in relevant community settings such as places of worship, working with community champions and targeted social media posts.

While it is too early to report on the results of the trial, a number of participants have been referred for urgent NHS cancer investigations following the detection of a cancer signal.

Those joining the trial were aged of 50 to 77 years old and did not have signs of cancer at the time of enrolment.

Mobile clinics will return to towns and cities from September this year and will follow up with volunteers approximately one year after their initial appointment.

The test works by finding chemical changes in fragments of DNA that shed from tumours into the bloodstream.

If successful, the NHS in England plans to roll out the test to a further one million people across 2024 and 2025.

Co-Chief Investigator for the NHS-Galleri trial, Professor Charles Swanton, said: “This is a really big and important trial and it’s a huge achievement that we’ve now enrolled 140,000 trial volunteers. Whilst the first year of the trial may pick up cancers that have existed for some time, the second and third years provide the best opportunity to explore the expected benefits of picking up new cancers at an early stage when treatment is generally more successful. This will help us work out how the test might be used alongside the existing NHS cancer screening programme.”

Sir Harpal Kumar, President of GRAIL Europe said: “We are so grateful for the public’s enthusiasm for this trial and to all those who have volunteered and are looking forward to participants coming back to our mobile clinics from September.

“Previous research has shown that the test is particularly strong at detecting deadly cancers and our hope is that it will help the NHS to reduce the number of cancers detected at a late stage.

“Galleri test results can provide clinicians with an accurate prediction of where the cancer is located in the body and, with the low rate of false positives we are hopeful that it will work well alongside existing cancer screening in the UK – the results of this trial will be key to our understanding.”

The NHS-Galleri trial is being run by The Cancer Research UK and King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit in partnership with the NHS and healthcare company, GRAIL, which has developed the Galleri test.