The ‘holy grail’ of NHS trials could save thousands of lives by detecting cancer before symptoms appear

NHS blood tests for people in their 50s could prevent up to one in 10 cancer deaths in the UK.

The health service is launching a world-first test designed to detect more than 50 cancers before symptoms appear.

While results are not yet available, the researchers are optimistic that it has “enormous” potential. Based on modelling, they believe the “holy grail” test could prevent around 10 per cent of cancer deaths, of which about 167,000 people die in the UK each year – nearly 460 a day.

This breakthrough could save approximately 16,000 lives each year.

Hundreds of trials involving 140,000 volunteers have been referred for scans or colonoscopies because of the test results. About half of referrals are expected to have cancer.

If the trial proves successful, the test could be rolled out to 1 million people as early as 2024, and then possibly nationwide.

If the test were made available across the UK and made available to around 18 million adults aged 50 to 79, then around 130,000 more asymptomatic people would be referred for cancer screening each year, assuming investigators expected 100% to test positive. one part.

Cancer testing by US company Grail could be a “tipping point” in how the NHS responds to the disease, UK researchers believe.

There are now nearly 3 million urgent cancer referrals a year, according to data through February, so the test will increase referrals by about 5 percent.

The researchers noted that many of these referrals occurred anyway, but at a later date.

The NHS is grappling with a backlog of post-Covid cancer referrals, with figures leaked this month showing more than 10,000 people are waiting for treatment three months after being referred for suspected cancer. But hopefully that will change when the test may roll out.

Professor Peter Sassini, one of the three lead researchers at King’s College London, said: “The potential of this blood test to significantly reduce the number of people dying from cancer is enormous. Of course, if the NHS rolls out the test, we will see Short-term workloads have increased due to slightly higher numbers of cancer referrals.

“But there should also be a lot of savings in the NHS in the long run, such as reducing the need for chemotherapy and expensive drugs for advanced cancers.”

The blood test, called the Galleri test, collects fragments of DNA associated with cancer that flow into the blood and can give an indication of where in the body it came from. It has revolutionized the way cancer is detected, as most patients are currently diagnosed only after they develop symptoms.

Based on modelling, they believe the 'holy grail' test could prevent around 10% of cancer deaths, of which around 167,000 people die in the UK each year and nearly 460 a day

Based on modelling, they believe the ‘Holy Grail’ test could prevent around 10% of cancer deaths, of which around 167,000 are killed in the UK each year – nearly 460 a day

Whether the test can prevent around 10% of cancer deaths will only become clear once the NHS trial results are published, as the models suggest.

But the test offers hope for hard-to-detect cancers such as ovarian and pancreatic cancers, which are often caught too late.

The NHS trial, led by Cancer Research UK, King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials and Grail, saw people aged 50 to 77 send invitations.

Those with signs of cancer in their blood are referred for scans within two weeks, which is expected to apply if routine blood tests are performed. The researchers haven’t revealed what percentage of people referred to hospital in the NHS trial turned out to have cancer, but previous research suggested it could be 30 to 70 percent.

In contrast, fewer than 10 percent of people who were referred to a hospital after being screened for breast or bowel cancer developed cancer. Half of the people in the NHS trial did not have a blood sample tested. Their rates of advanced cancer will be compared to those who were tested. If it is significantly higher, it indicates that the test has prevented people from developing advanced cancer.

The UK’s 130,000 referrals to a blood test for cancer are based on people aged 50 to 79 using it, if 70 per cent accepted the invitation.

Early results from the trial will be shared with the NHS in 2024.

Ross Gray, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Research like this is crucial to making progress in the treatment of advanced cancers and giving more patients the chance to have good outcomes.”

‘This test can prevent pain like mine’

It took Hollywood star Olivia Williams four years to learn her symptoms were the result of a very rare form of pancreatic cancer.

The British actress has seen ten doctors on three continents while filming various films, but two matchbox-sized tumors in her pancreas went undiagnosed.

Now, the 54-year-old, who will play Camilla Parker Bowles in “The Crown,” is backing the Galleri test to detect early signs of pancreatic cancer before symptoms appear.

Miss Williams, UK ambassador for pancreatic cancer, has recovered from the disease, which was less deadly than the most common type. But she had half of her pancreas, spleen and gallbladder removed and must now take medicine to digest food.

The mother-of-two said: “It took me four years to suspect something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure. This test is over, it’s a gift from God. It will prevent many of us from suffering a second time Blow – You not only have cancer, but it has spread.

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