A blood test that can potentially detect more than 50 types of cancer will be piloted by the NHS, CEO Sir Simon Stevens has announced.
The Galleri blood test, which can detect cancers at an early stage through a simple blood test, will be tested with 165,000 patients in a deal signed by NHS England.
NHS England said research in patients with signs of cancer suggests the test can identify many types that are difficult to diagnose early, such as head and neck, ovarian, pancreatic, esophagus and some blood cancers.
Developed by US-based company Grail, the test monitors for molecular changes.
If the program shows that the test is also working as expected for people without symptoms, it will be rolled out to become routinely available.
The test could help meet the NHS goal of increasing the proportion of early-onset cancers, which could be the key to reducing cancer mortality.
Patients diagnosed with their condition at stage one are typically between five and 10 times more likely to survive than those at stage four.
Sir Simon said, “While the good news is that cancer survival is now at an all-time high, more than a thousand people are diagnosed with cancer every day.
“Early detection – especially for difficult-to-treat conditions such as ovarian and pancreatic cancer – can save many lives.
“This promising blood test could therefore be a game-changer in cancer care and help thousands of people receive successful treatment.”
The pilot, which will start in mid-2021, involves 165,000 people.
This includes 140,000 participants ages 50 to 79 who have no symptoms but will undergo annual blood tests for three years.
People will be identified through NHS records and approached to participate.
Anyone with a positive test will be referred to the NHS for examination.
An additional 25,000 people with possible cancer symptoms will also be offered tests to speed up their diagnosis after being referred to the hospital in the normal way.
The results of these studies are expected in 2023, and if the results are positive, they will expand to approximately one million participants in 2024 and 2025.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said: “We are building a world-leading diagnostic industry in the UK – not just for coronavirus, but for other diseases as well.
“This exciting and groundbreaking new blood test from Grail will give us another tool to give more people the very best chance of survival, and shows how the UK continues to lead the way in using the latest innovative treatments to help patients.
“Many of us know a loved one who has fought cancer and seen firsthand the impact of this deadly disease.”