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NHS to pilot blood test that can identify 50 types of cancer

cancer blood test

A blood test which can detect molecular changes underpinning many types of cancer is to be tested in the NHS.

A pilot of the Galleri blood test which can detect more than 50 types of cancer including some which are difficult to diagnose at an early stage such as oesophageal, ovarian and pancreatic cancer will start in the middle of next year, NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said.

It will involve three years of annual blood tests in 140,000 participants aged 50 to 79 who have no symptoms. Anyone with a positive test will be referred for investigation in the NHS.

A further 25,000 people with possible cancer symptoms will also be offered testing to speed up their diagnosis after being referred through existing pathways.

If the pilot shows positive results, it would be expanded to involve around one million participants across 2024 and 2025.

The goal in the NHS plan is to increase the proportion of cancers diagnosed at stage one or two from half to three-quarters by 2028.

‘Early detection – particularly for hard-to-treat conditions like ovarian and pancreatic cancer – has the potential to save many lives.

‘This promising blood test could therefore be a game-changer in cancer care, helping thousands more people to get successful treatment,’ said Sir Simon.

Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer said: ‘The NHS has set itself an ambitious target, to find three-quarters of cancers at an early stage, when they have the highest chance of cure. 

‘Tests like this may help us get there far faster, and I am excited to see how this cutting-edge technology will work out, as we test it in clinics across the NHS.’

The news comes as a digital tool that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help GPs detect cancer in the early stages has been rolled out to 400 GP practices across North West London.