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NHS Blood Test Could Transform Cancer Care 

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A blood test which can detect 50 cancers before symptoms start to show could be offered to a million people in a pilot programme from next summer. Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said that if early results are successful it will be rolled out more widely next year.

How does the blood test work? 

The blood test is called the the Galleri test. The liquid biopsy detects tiny fragments of tumour DNA in the bloodstream and alerts doctors as to whether a cancer signal has been detected and predicts where in the body that signal may have originated.

The Galleri test is being given to 142,000 people without symptoms across England and will report its results in April. If early results are successful, a pilot screening programme involving one million patients over two years is scheduled to begin next summer. The test is expected to find 5,000 potential cases of the disease every year which will ““transform cancer care forever” according to Amanda Pritchard.

This month, a separate study published at the world’s largest cancer conference in the US suggested the Galleri blood test, made by the California company Grail, could help speed up diagnosis and fast-track patients for treatment. Experts at the conference had welcomed the findings but said more research would be needed before the test could be rolled out in healthcare systems.

The Symplify study, led by the University of Oxford, involved 5,461 people in England and Wales who were referred to hospital by their GP with suspected cancer. The test correctly revealed two-thirds of cancers among those in the study. In 85% of those positive cases, it was also able to pinpoint the original site of cancer. It was more accurate in older patients and those with more advanced cancers, according to the trial results.

The results were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago.

The NHS Confed Expo Conference

Addressing the NHS Confederation Expo this week in Manchester, Amanda Pritchard said “our pioneering NHS Galleri trial, now in its second year, is the first step in testing a new way to identify cancers before symptoms appear. If provisional results prove successful, we will be rolling out the test to an extra one million people across the country from next summer, with the aim of diagnosing thousands more people with cancer at an earlier stage.”

“Lives are saved when cancers are caught early and this test has the potential to transform cancer care forever, especially for the types that often don’t show symptoms until a later stage, when they can be much harder to treat.” She continued.

A researcher involved in the NHS trial also said that the tests could eventually be carried out by people in their own homes.

Moreover, Gillian Rosenberg, innovation lead on NHS England’s national cancer programme, told the conference they were speaking to the national screening committee and would like to expand testing if the early results were successful. She added they expected “about 5,000” positive referrals in each year of the pilot programme.

Final thought 

Speaking to the small number of clinicians who actually attended the NHS Confederation Expo conference in Manchester this week, there is no doubt that staff are stretched – particularly in cancer care. As Curia found in our 2022 NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission report, technology provides a significant opportunity to help patients as well as staff in transforming care pathways. A diagnostic test of this nature will undoubtedly transform cancer outcomes and help an overloaded NHS with efficient pathology.

As Curia launches their oncology programme later this year, the rollout of rapid diagnostic testing will feature as a specific session of the commission. Commissioners will want to understand what changes are needed within the service pathway to ensure diagnostic testing at scale. Clearly money will be a question for the system, but the long term cost benefits are obvious. 

To find out more and get involved please contact team@curiauk.com or visit www.curiauk.com

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