New blood test that can detect 50 kinds of cancer 'could transform NHS forever'

16 June 2023, 11:49

A new blood test is being developed that could 'transform cancer care'
A new blood test is being developed that could 'transform cancer care'. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Kit Heren

A new blood test is being developed that can spot 50 kinds of cancer - and could "transform cancer care forever".

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The Galleri blood test could detect as many as 5,000 cases of cancer per year.

One million people with no cancer symptoms will be tested at mobile units from July next year.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: "Lives are saved when cancers are caught early — and this test has the potential to transform cancer care forever."

And the test could be taken at home in the future, researchers have said.

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Amanda Pritchard
Amanda Pritchard. Picture: Getty

Dr Thomas Round, of King’s College London, said: "A lot of companies are offering home blood testing kits.“So it could be in the future that people do their own testing."

An NHS trial of the Galleri test successfully detected two out of of every three cancers in a study of 5,461 people who attended their GP with suspected cancer symptoms.

In cases where the cancer was successfully detected by the blood test, it could also pinpoint where the primary cancer was in 85% of cases.

While the blood test does not detect all cancers, and does not replace screenings for types such as cervical, breast and bowel cancers, it can be used for lung, gynaecological, upper gastrointestinal (GI) or lower GI cancers.

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The test could transform cancer care
The test could transform cancer care. Picture: Alamy

The test, developed by US company Grail, was shown at a global cancer conference.

The Symplify study, led by the University of Oxford, involved people from England and Wales who were referred to hospital by their GP with suspected cancer. 

It works by looking for tiny fragments of tumour DNA in the bloodstream.Those who participated were an average age of 62-years-old, two thirds were female, and just under half were current or former smokers.

The found a cancer signal in 323 people's blood, 244 of which were later officially diagnosed with cancer – meaning it accurately detected cancer in 75% of those tested.

NHS England previously remarked the test could be a “game changer” for early cancer detection in patients, which could help eliminating the health risk earlier on.

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The test was shown to be most accurate in older patients and those with more advanced cancers, and particularly in ruling out a cancer diagnosis for those experiencing symptoms that could indicate upper gastrointestinal tumours.

The results of these studies come at a time when the backlog of covid is still being felt by cancer patients today.

Updated NHS data shows almost 6,000 patients had to wait more than two months for cancer treatment following an urgent referral from their GP, when NHS guidelines state 85% of patients should be seen within two months.

Experts have stressed the Galleri test, while promising, needs “refining”, as it is crucial the tests are more successful in detecting early tumours and avoiding false positives before they could be used officially.