Home blood test that can check for more than 50 types of cancer could change care forever and INCREASE survival rates, claims NHS boss
- One million NHS patients without symptoms will take part in the world trial
A simple blood test that detects more than 50 types of cancer could “change cancer care forever,” said the head of the NHS.
One million health service patients with no symptoms will be enrolled in a global first trial starting next year in hopes of increasing survival rates.
Researchers expect the blood test to alert 10,000 people that they may have a tumor, allowing them to be referred for scans and further testing. And they estimate that four in 10 of these — or 4,000 people — will turn out to have the disease.
Identifying cancers early before they spread increases the chances of treatment being successful and reduces the risk of dying from them.
The Galleri test, developed by the American company Grail, has already been successfully tested in patients with symptoms and can tell doctors where in the body the tumor originated. Health leaders believe it can be invaluable as an important screening tool.
A simple blood test that detects more than 50 types of cancer could change cancer care forever, NHS chief said
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard (pictured) said: ‘This test has the potential to transform cancer care forever’
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said: ‘Lives are saved when cancer is caught early, and this test has the potential to transform cancer care forever – especially for the types who often only show symptoms at a later stage when they can be much more difficult to treat.
‘This trial demonstrates that the NHS is always striving to adopt and disseminate cutting-edge innovations so that we can provide our patients with the best possible care.’
The Galleri test looks for traces of abnormal DNA circulating in patients’ blood, which could be a sign they have cancer.
Dr. Thomas Round, a GP and researcher at the King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit, told the NHS ConfedExpo conference in Manchester that the potential of the test is ‘huge’.
Trial recruits will give blood at clinics, but he said it could be developed into a home-based test that people can do themselves when it suits them. If successful, it would make it easier for doctors to find a tumour, which is currently like looking for a ‘needle in a haystack’, Dr Round said.
He added: ‘The sky’s the limit. Most GPs are currently overworked and that could help us. As a general practitioner, I have maybe eight new cancers a year. But you have to think about how many hundreds of consultations I could have that could be due to cancer.
“And most cancers don’t have screening programs. Think of pancreatic cancer, where by the time people have symptoms like weight loss, they often have stage four and very poor survival.
“So basically you have to think about those cancers where we can have that earlier signal before the symptoms or where the symptoms are very vague.”
Researchers expect the blood test to alert 10,000 people they may have a tumor, allowing them to be referred for scans and further testing
The test is being conducted on 142,000 patients without cancer symptoms and will be expanded to one million more between the ages of 50 and 77 from April next year, if initial results are promising.
The National Screening Commission will be involved in evaluating the success of the test so that it can be rolled out quickly if it is found to work.
Gillian Rosenberg, innovation leader for NHS England’s National Cancer Programme, said: ‘Out of one million tests we expect to see in this pilot, we think the number of positive referrals will be around 5,000.
“Although we screen a large number of people, we are confident that this will not place an unnecessary burden on the currently stretched secondary care pathways.”
Its rollout would make the NHS the first healthcare system in the world to offer universal cancer control – dubbed the ‘Holy Grail’ of cancer care.