Over 23,500 volunteers have flocked to take part in the revolutionary Galleri cancer trial in Kent and Medway.
Nationally, more than 140,000 people have stepped forward to take part in the world’s largest trial of a blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer. It forms part of the latest NHS drive to catch the disease when it is generally easiest to treat.
Dr Vaughan Lewis, Regional Medical Director, said: “I am hugely grateful to all the volunteers in the South East who have stepped forward to take part in this potentially lifesaving clinical trial. We know that early detection of cancer is key to improving patients’ outcomes.
“Screening programmes have made real inroads in improving outcomes for individual cancers but a test to detect multiple cancers before symptoms appear would be a real game changer.”
In just one year since the NHS-Galleri trial began, volunteers from across the country have taken up the invitation to have a blood test at mobile clinics in over 150 convenient locations, including supermarket and leisure centre car parks and places of worship. In Kent and Medway, tests have been available in Dartford, Sittingbourne and Ashford.
Participants will now be invited to attend two further appointments, spaced roughly 12 months apart.
Trial participant, Terry Dennehy, 68, from Eltham, lost his brother to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in his late 50s. He said: “The test was painless. I received a letter inviting me to take part and I weighed up what the advantages and disadvantages were and thought it was the right thing to do.”
Valma Wells, 75, from Hextable, had a very good reason for wanting to be part of the ground-breaking trial – her husband Ron, 79, has already survived two different types of cancer.
She said: “Around 13 years ago, Ron was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had chemotherapy for that and then three years ago he had prostate cancer and needed radiotherapy for that.
“Early detection played a big part in helping Ron. That is why I am here, the earlier we can detect cancer, the better it is for people.”
Valma also has a friend who, thanks to a routine mammogram, had breast cancer diagnosed and was able to be treated as it was detected early on. She said: “As soon as I heard about the trial and was invited, I knew I wanted to take part.”
The trial is part of radical NHS action to tackle cancer, that also includes high street pharmacies spotting signs of cancer and sending people for checks, roaming lung and liver scanning trucks going into communities, and drones delivering chemotherapy with the first of its kind in Isle of Wight with chemo being flown directly from the pharmacy at Portsmouth Hospital University NHS Trust to St Marys Hospital.
Initial research has shown that the Galleri trial blood test could help to detect cancers that are typically difficult to identify early – such as head and neck, bowel, lung and pancreatic cancers.
Ian Vousden, Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance said: “We are absolutely delighted with the response to the trial in Kent and Medway; we know that patients outcomes are so much better when cancer is detected earlier, but some can be hard to spot at an early stage. This trial has the potential to change that and we are hugely excited to see the results.’’
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.
Mobile clinics will return to towns and cities from September this year and will follow up with volunteers approximately one year after their initial appointment.
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.