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UK Starts First Large-Scale Clinical Trial of Blood Test for More Than 50 Cancers

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The National Health Service (NHS), the UK’s public health service, today launched a large-scale clinical trial of a blood test that should detect more than 50 different types of cancer before symptoms appear. Detecting cancer at an early stage greatly increases the chances of survival.


It concerns the Galleri blood test of the American biotechnology company Grail. This test uses the latest DNA sequencing techniques – called massively parallel sequencing or next-generation sequencing – to detect DNA fragments in a blood sample and identify DNA methylation. Different patterns in that methylation are associated with certain cancers, potentially allowing early detection of cancer and information about cancer’s origin.

The NHS said it would recruit 140,000 volunteers aged 50 to 79 who are asymptomatic for this study phase in England. They will be identified from the NHS records and invited to participate in the survey. They will have an annual blood test for 3 years.

In addition, 25,000 people with possible cancer symptoms will also be offered a blood test to speed up their diagnosis. The results of the study are expected by 2023. If positive, the study could be expanded to some 1 million participants over the course of 2024 and 2025.

In England, about half of all cancers are currently diagnosed at stage 1 or 2. One of the NHS’s long-term plan goals is to increase that share to 75 percent by 2028, and this test could help a lot.

“We need to scrutinize the Galleri test to find out if it can significantly reduce the number of late-stage cancers diagnosed,” said Peter Sasieni, a professor of cancer prevention at King’s College London. “The test could be a game-changer for early cancer detection, and we are excited to lead this important research.”

“As of today, the NHS is starting the world’s first trial of a new blood test that will find traces of more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms even show up. That will hopefully allow us to identify cancers at a much earlier stage when people have a much higher level of cancer. have a better chance of better recovery, and treatment is much easier,” said Amanda Pritchard, the general manager of the NHS.

“So starting today, we will be inviting people to come to easily accessible places like shopping malls for a blood test. And I would just like to say to anyone who gets a letter or an invitation: please go ahead and become a part of this research, a world first,” she said.

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