NHS launches world first trial for blood test that detects cancer

The NHS today announced it is launching the world’s largest trial of a blood test which can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear.

Research has shown the Galleri test is effective at finding cancers that are typically difficult to identify early, including head and neck, bowel, lung, pancreatic, and throat cancers.

It works by finding chemical changes in fragments of genetic code-cell-free DNA (cfDNA) that leak from tumours into the bloodstream.

A Randomised Control Trial (RCT) 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 developed the Galleri test. It is operating with the support of eight NHS Cancer Alliances across England.

They aim to recruit 140,000 volunteers in eight areas of England to see how well the test works in the NHS.

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, at 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.


Tens of thousands are living with undiagnosed cancer due to the impact of COVID-19, according to cancer campaigners.

Earlier this year, the NHS launched a national trial of edible miniature cameras to check for signs of colon cancer.


NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “This quick and simple blood test could mark the beginning of a revolution in cancer detection and treatment here and around the world.”

Dame Cally Palmer, NHS national director for cancer, said: “It is an absolute priority to speed up the earlier detection of cancer to improve survival, and this trial has the potential to do just that across a range of types of cancer.”

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: “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.”

Prof Peter Sasieni, director of Cancer Research UK and King’s College London cancer prevention trials unit, said: “We need to study the Galleri test carefully to find out whether it can significantly reduce the number of cancers diagnosed at a late stage.”

Sir Harpal Kumar, president of GRAIL Europe, said: “We’re delighted to partner with the NHS to support the NHS Long Term Plan for earlier cancer diagnosis, and we are eager to bring our technology to people in the UK as quickly as we can.”

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