Thousands Of People In the East of England Invited To Help NHS Trial New Cancer Test

The East of England has been selected as one of eight areas[1] of the country to take part in the world’s largest trial of a revolutionary new blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear.

People in Cambridge and Peterborough will be among the first to have blood samples taken at mobile testing clinics in retail parks and other convenient community locations in the area.

The potentially lifesaving Galleri™ test checks for the earliest signs of cancer in the blood and the NHS-Galleri trial, the first of its kind, aims to recruit 140,000 volunteers nationally, including tens of thousands in the East of England, to see how well the test works in the NHS.

Clinical Director for the East of England North Cancer Alliance, Dr Linda Hunter, said:

“Detecting cancer early will be key to improving cancer outcomes in the East of England which is why we’re supportive of the NHS-Galleri trial.

“Patients whose condition is diagnosed at ‘stage one’ typically have between five and 10 times the chance of surviving compared with those found at ‘stage four’.

“The Galleri blood test, if successful, could play a major part in helping to achieve our NHS Long Term Plan ambition to catch three quarters of cancers at an early stage, when they are easier to treat.

“The NHS has a successful track record of leading the way on innovations in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“This quick and simple blood test could mark the beginning of a revolution in cancer detection and treatment here and around the world.”

The NHS will be sending out thousands of letters inviting local people from different backgrounds and ethnicities aged between 50 and 77 to take part in the Galleri trial.

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 blood samples.

The test is a simple blood test that research has shown is particularly effective at finding cancers that are difficult to identify early – such as 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.

The first locations in the East of England to host a mobile clinic are likely to be in Cambridge and Peterborough, with additional locations in Norfolk and Waveney and Suffolk and North East Essex. We are aiming for the first invites to go out in October/November to members of the public.

Dr Linda Hunter, continues: “Taking part is easy so we ask people to look out for their invitation in the post and consider registering to give a simple blood sample at mobile clinics that will be located in towns and cities in the region over the next few months.

“If you are invited, please take part – you could be helping us to revolutionise cancer care and to protect yourself.”

The East of England Cancer Alliance is helping to ensure that volunteers who test positive across the region are appropriately investigated and receive the best possible care within the NHS.

All participants will be advised to continue with their standard NHS screening appointments and to still contact their GP if they notice any new or unusual symptoms.

Local Cancer Research UK GP and Primary Care Network Cancer Lead, Dr Peter Holloway, who works at Mendlesham Medical Practice said: “Volunteers from our region in the East of England will be helping the NHS to be at the forefront of evaluating and introducing new technologies that could improve the health of millions.

“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.”

The NHS-Galleri trial 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 has developed the Galleri test.

Prof Peter Sasieni, Director of The Cancer Research UK & King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit and one of the trial’s lead investigators, 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. The test could be a game-changer for early cancer detection and we are excited to be leading this important research.”

“Joining the trial is easy, and we are particularly keen to attract volunteers from diverse communities in the East of England to ensure the results are relevant for as many different people as possible.”

The NHS-Galleri trial is a Randomised Control Trial (RCT) – meaning that half the participants will have their blood sample screened with the Galleri test right away and the other half will have their sample stored and may be tested in the future. This will allow scientists to compare the stage at which cancer is detected between the two groups.

People will only know they’re in the test group if they are among the small minority whose test detects potential signals of cancer in their blood. These people will be contacted by the trial nurse by phone and referred to an NHS hospital for further tests.

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. The Galleri test can not only detect a wide range of cancer types but can also predict where the cancer is in the body with a high degree of accuracy. The test is particularly strong at detecting deadly cancers and has a very low rate of false positives.”

Initial results of the study are expected by 2023 and, if successful, NHS England plans to extend the rollout to a further one million people in 2024 and 2025.

The trial is the latest initiative launched by the NHS to meet its Long Term Plan commitment of finding three-quarters of cancers at an early stage by 2028.