Over 140,000 people, of which almost 7,500 are from south east London, have volunteered to take part in the world’s largest trial of a blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer, as part of the latest NHS drive to catch the disease when it is generally easiest to treat.
This latest milestone in NHS cancer innovation will potentially offer earlier detection of hard to spot cancers, such as head and neck, bowel, lung and pancreatic cancers, even before symptoms appear.
In just one year since the NHS-Galleri trial began, volunteers have taken up the invitation to have a blood test at mobile clinics in convenient locations, including supermarket and leisure centre car parks and places of worship.
Temi, a trial participant and nurse from Peckham in London said:
“I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer. It is a type of cancer that you often don’t know about until it has become advanced and then there’s little you can do.
“I’m a nurse and have seen first-hand that cancer does not respect people’s race or background. However, research into early cancer detection gives me hope for the future. So, when I got the opportunity to join the NHS-Galleri trial, I felt this was something I needed to get involved with.”
Thanks to national NHS campaigns and early diagnosis initiatives, urgent cancer referrals have been at record levels over the past 12 months – almost a fifth higher than before the pandemic.
Dr Chris Streather, Medical Director for the NHS in London said:
“This leading trial shows the outstanding developments in cancer research that the NHS is funding.
Community diagnostic centres, roaming ‘liver trucks’ and a whole host of new and convenient ways to get tested, mean more Londoners have easy access to these vital checks and tests that are fundamental in spotting early warning signs.
I’m grateful for so many Londoners coming forward to participate in this trial, which shows the combined effort that is going towards detecting and treating cancer at the very earliest stage, making life-changing research possible.”
Participants will now be invited to attend two further appointments, spaced roughly 12 months apart.
In order to include people often underrepresented in these sorts of trials GP practices in south London sent invitations to people from ethnic minorities, while there were also community group briefings, leaflet distribution in relevant community settings such as places of worship and work with community champions and targeted social media posts.
While it is too early to report on the results of the trial, a number of participants have been referred for urgent NHS cancer investigations following the detection of a cancer signal.
Those joining the trial were aged of 50 to 77 years old and did not have signs of cancer at the time of enrolment. The test works by finding chemical changes in fragments of DNA that shed from tumours into the bloodstream.
If successful, the NHS in England plans to roll out the test to a further one million people across 2024 and 2025.
This is the latest announcement in the NHS’s drive to catch cancers at an earlier stage, and follows the successful rollout of targeted lung trucks across the country, with more than 30,000 people invited for checks every month in mobile vehicles, and hundreds of cancers diagnosed earlier.
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.