Nearly 7,500 from south-east London have joined 140,000 people nationally as volunteers 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.
The test 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.
The NHS-Galleri study is a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) – meaning that half the participants have had their blood sample screened with the Galleri test right away (test group) and the other half (the control group) have their sample stored (these may be tested in the future). This is allowing scientists working on the trial to compare the stage at which cancer is detected between the two groups.
Those taking part in the trial will not be informed if they are in the test or control group unless they are among the small minority whose test detects potential signals of cancer in their blood. Anyone in this situation is contacted by a trial nurse by phone and referred to an NHS hospital for further tests.
All participants are advised to continue with their standard NHS screening appointments and to always contact their GP if they notice any new or unusual symptoms.
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 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 1million people between 2024 and 2025.
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.
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