The NHS has launched world’s largest trial for the Galleri test, a blood test that can likely detect more than 50 types of cancers.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. In 2020, it accounted for almost 10 million deaths. Early detection and availability of appropriate treatment play a big role in reducing the cancer burden. Early detection can increase a person’s 5-year survival rate by 4-fold. For example, detection at stage 1 increases survival by five to ten times, compared to diagnosis at stage 4. Therefore, the development of newer and better cancer screening methods is of great importance. Now, in an effort to improve cancer detection, researchers have developed the Galleri cancer test.
Developed by the Californian firm GRAIL, the simple blood test can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear. England’s National Health Service (NHS) has now launched the world’s largest trial for the new cancer test. Researchers aim to recruit 140,000 volunteers from across 8 areas of England. As part of the inclusion criteria, the volunteers must be aged between 50 and 77 years, and not have had a cancer diagnosis in the past three years.
The study participants will first submit a blood sample at a locally based mobile clinic. Then against after 12 months, and two years later. Only half the samples will undergo the Galleri test, while the remaining samples will be stored away. Moreover, the stored samples will be tested in the future if those volunteers go on to receive a cancer diagnosis.
How Does it Work?
The Galleri test is a simple blood test and works by identifying chemical changes in fragments of cell-free DNA (cfDNA). These fragments are typically shed from tumours into the bloodstream. However, the presence of the signal does not mean the person has cancer. Instead, it just shows the person has a chance of developing cancer and needs to undergo further follow-up tests. Therefore, the company advises the use of the Galleri test in conjunction with other screening methods.
Previous research has shown the test as effective in detecting cancers that are difficult to diagnose early. These include head and neck, throat, pancreatic, bowel, and lung cancers.
Researchers expect the trial’s results to become available by 2023. If successful, NHS England will conduct the test in further one million people in 2024 and 2025.
Reference: NHS England