'Revolutionary' cancer blood test to be trailed by NHS in East of England in hope of spotting disease before symptoms even appear
Invites are being sent out to thousands of people to take part in a pioneering blood test trial which could spot more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms even appear.
The East of England Cancer Alliance - which covers Suffolk - is one of eight regional groups to take part in the world's largest trial of the cancer finding Galleri blood test.
Some 140,000 people across the country, who are between the age of 50 and 77, will be asked for a blood sample by the NHS so scientists can work out how well the test works in the health service.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said the UK continued to pioneer innovative cancer diagnostics, test which he said gave doctors the best tools to spot the disease early.
“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," said the MP, who replaced Matt Hancock in the job earlier this year.
“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.”
Scientists are asking for a simple blood test that research has shown is particularly effective at finding cancers that are usually difficult to identify early - like head and neck, bowel, lung, pancreatic and throat cancers.
The test works by spotting chemical changes in fragments of genetic code-cell-free DNA that leak from tumours into the bloodstream.
The NHS is already sending out letters inviting tens of thousands of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities aged between 50 and 77 to take part.
Participants, who must not have had a cancer diagnosis in the last three years, will be asked to give a blood sample at a locally based mobile clinic and they will then be invited back after 12 months, and again at two years, to give further samples.
The NHS-Galleri trial is being run by 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.
Initial results of the study are expected by 2023 and, if successful, the NHS in England plans to extend the rollout to a further one million people in 2024 and 2025.
Patients whose cancer is found early – known as stage one or two – typically have a broader range of treatment options available to them, which can be curative and are often less aggressive.
A patient whose cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage typically has between five and 10 times the chance of surviving compared with those found at ‘stage four.’
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS, said it could 'mark the beginning of a revolution in cancer detection and treatment here and around the world', and urged people to take part in the trial if contacted.
“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.