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UK to trial ‘game-changer’ blood test that ‘may detect 50 types of cancer’ at early stage

Around 1,65,000 people will be offered the test, developed by US firm GRAIL, as part of the NHS trial. The test can reportedly detect forms of cancer that are difficult to diagnose early.

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New Delhi: The National Health Service (NHS) of the UK is all set to conduct trials on a unique blood test developed by a California-based healthcare company that “may detect more than 50 types of cancer” at an early stage. Around 1,65,000 people in the UK will be offered this test for the first time next year, the government healthcare body announced Friday.

Developed by US firm GRAIL, the method is called ‘Galleri test’. In its statement, the NHS cited research to claim the test could identify different forms of cancer — head and neck, ovarian, pancreatic, oesophageal and some types found in the blood — that are difficult to diagnose early.

According to the NHS, people diagnosed with stage-one cancers typically have a five-to-10-times higher shot at survival than those diagnosed at stage four.

“This promising blood test could therefore be a game-changer in cancer care, helping thousands of more people to get successful treatment,” NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said.

Also read: 70% of India’s cancer patients couldn’t access care during lockdown, experts say

‘Through a simple blood draw’

According to GRAIL, the Galleri test has shown the ability to detect multiple types of cancer through a simple blood draw. The test is designed to detect molecular changes in blood caused by cancer in people with no prior symptoms.

“Most of these cancers cannot be detected through current screening paradigms. When cancer was detected, the galleri test localised the cancer signal with high accuracy, helping inform next steps to diagnosis,” GRAIL’s website states.

At present, in case of visible symptoms, doctors usually ask for details of family and medical history, and recommend a biopsy, which is often the only way to detect cancer. Some other lab tests, CT scan, and MRI, etc are also performed to detect cancerous tumors, but all these tests are performed when there are visible symptoms.

The trial

The new test will begin in mid-2021 and include 140,000 participants aged between 50 and 79 years who have no symptoms of cancer. These participants will undergo annual blood tests for three years. Another set of around 25,000 people with possible cancer symptoms will be offered testing “to speed up their diagnosis after being referred to hospital in the normal way”.

The results of the study are likely to be out in 2023. If the outcomes are positive, the trial will be expanded to include 10 lakh participants through 2024 and 25. In England, around half of cancers are currently diagnosed at stage one or two, the NHS said, adding that it plans to increase the number to three quarters by 2028.

Also read: India lagging in cervical cancer prevention, needs more screening, vaccination, experts say


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