LONDON: Britain’s state-run National Health Service will on Monday begin the world’s biggest trial of Grail’s flagship Galleri blood test that can be used to detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear.
The Galleri test looks at the DNA in a patient’s blood to determine if any come from cancer cells. Earlier diagnosis of cancers leads to dramatically increased survival rates.
The NHS said it wanted to recruit 140,000 volunteers in England to see how well the test worked as part of a randomised control trial. Half of the participants will have their blood sample screened with the Galleri test right away.
“We need to study the Galleri test carefully to find out whether it can significantly reduce the number of cancers diagnosed at a late stage,” said Peter Sasieni, 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 be leading this important research.”
The Galleri test has been found to be particularly effective at finding cancers that can be difficult to identify early, such as head and neck, bowel, lung, pancreatic, and throat cancers.
It does not detect all cancers and does not replace NHS screening programmes, such as those for breast, cervical and bowel cancer.
Lung cancer is by far the most common cause of cancer death in the United Kingdom, accounting for around a fifth of all cancer deaths. Lung, bowel, prostate and breast cancers account for 45% of the United Kingdom’s cancer deaths, the NHS said.
Blood samples will be taken at several mobile testing clinics as part of the NHS trial, which is the world’s largest. The NHS aims to recruit 140,000 volunteers in eight areas of England to see how well the test works in the health service.
US life sciences company Illumina said last month it had completed its $7.1 billion acquisition of Grail. Illumina said it will operate Grail separately from its existing business.
The NHS trial is being led by the Cancer Research UK and King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit together with medtech company Grail, which developed the Galleri test.
The first results from the study are expected by 2023. If successful, the NHS in England plans to extend the roll-out to a further one million people in 2024 and 2025.