The East of England have been selected as one of eight areas of the country to take part in the world’s largest trial of a revolutionary new blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear.
People in Cambridge and Peterborough will be among the first to have blood samples taken at mobile testing clinics in retail parks and other convenient community locations in the area.
The potentially lifesaving Galleri™ test checks for the earliest signs of cancer in the blood and the NHS-Galleri trial, the first of its kind, aims to recruit 140,000 volunteers nationally, including tens of thousands in the East of England, to see how well the test works in the NHS.
Clinical Director for the East of England North Cancer Alliance, Dr Linda Hunter, said:
“Detecting cancer early will be key to improving cancer outcomes in East of England which is why we’re supportive of NHS-Galleri trial.”
“Patients whose condition is diagnosed at ‘stage one’ typically have between five and 10 times the chance of surviving compared with those found at ‘stage four’.”
“The Galleri blood test, if successful, could play a major part in helping to achieve our NHS Long Term Plan ambition to catch three quarters of cancers at an early stage, when they are easier to treat.”
“The NHS has a successful track record of leading the way on innovations in cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
“This quick and simple blood test could mark the beginning of a revolution in cancer detection and treatment here and around the world.”
The NHS will be sending out thousands of letters inviting local people from different background and ethnicities aged between 50 and 77 to take part in the Galleri trial.
Participants, (who must not have had a cancer diagnosis in the last three years), will be asked to give a blood sample at a locally based mobile clinic and they will then be invited back after 12 months, and again at two years, to give further blood samples.
The test is a simple blood test that research has shown is particularly effective at finding cancers that are difficult to identify early – such as head and neck, bowel, lung, pancreatic, and throat cancers.
It works by finding chemical changes in fragments of genetic code – cell-free DNA (cfDNA) – that leak from tumours into the bloodstream.
The first locations in the East of England to host a mobile clinic are likely to be in Cambridge and Peterborough, with additional locations in Norfolk and Waveney and Suffolk and North East Essex. We are aiming for the first invites to go out in October / November to members of the public.
Dr Linda Hunter, continues: “Taking part is easy so we ask people to look out for their invitation in the post and consider registering to give a simple blood sample at mobile clinics that will be located in towns and cities in the region over the next few months.”
“If you are invited, please take part - you could be helping us to revolutionise cancer care and to protect yourself.”
The East of England Cancer Alliance is helping to ensure that volunteers who test positive across the region are appropriately investigated and receive the best possible care within the NHS.
All participants will be advised to continue with their standard NHS screening appointments and to still contact their GP if they notice any new or unusual symptoms.
Local Cancer Research UK GP and Primary Care Network Cancer Lead, Dr Peter Holloway, who works at Mendlesham Medical Practice said: “Volunteers from our region in the East of England will be helping the NHS to be at the forefront of evaluating and introducing new technologies that could improve the health of millions.”
“By finding cancer before signs and symptoms even appear, we have the best chance of treating it and we can give people the best possible chance of survival.”
The NHS-Galleri trial is being run by The Cancer Research UK and King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit in partnership with the NHS and healthcare company, GRAIL, which has developed the Galleri test.
Prof Peter Sasieni, Director of The Cancer Research UK & King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit and one of the trial’s lead investigators, said: “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. The test could be a game-changer for early cancer detection and we are excited to be leading this important research.”
“Joining the trial is easy, and we are particularly keen to attract volunteers from diverse communities in the East of England to ensure the results are relevant for as many different people as possible.”
The NHS-Galleri trial is a Randomised Control Trial (RCT) – meaning that half the participants will have their blood sample screened with the Galleri test right away and the other half will have their sample stored and may be tested in the future. This will allow scientists to compare the stage at which cancer is detected between the two groups.
People will only know they’re in the test group if they are among the small minority whose test detects potential signals of cancer in their blood. These people will be contacted by the trial nurse by phone and referred to an NHS hospital for further tests.
Sir Harpal Kumar, President of GRAIL Europe, said: “We’re delighted to partner with the NHS to support the NHS Long Term Plan for earlier cancer diagnosis, and we are eager to bring our technology to people in the UK as quickly as we can. The Galleri test can not only detect a wide range of cancer types but can also predict where the cancer is in the body with a high degree of accuracy. The test is particularly strong at detecting deadly cancers and has a very low rate of false positives.”
Initial results of the study are expected by 2023 and, if successful, NHS England plans to extend the rollout to a further one million people in 2024 and 2025.
The trial is the latest initiative launched by the NHS to meet its Long Term Plan commitment of finding three-quarters of cancers at an early stage by 2028.
Research has already found that the test can identify many cancer types that are difficult to diagnose early and treat successfully. In a group of 12 pre-specified cancers that make up nearly two-thirds of cancer deaths in England,  the sensitivity of stages I-III was 67.6% in a previous study.
- For media enquiries relating to the role of NHS England in the NHS-Galleri trial, or relating to spokespeople Dr Linda Hunter or Dr Peter Holloway contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- For media enquiries relating to the role of GRAIL, the operation of the trial and the technology behind the test contact, Julie Kangisser or Sam Burne James at Claremont at email@example.com or on 0333 880 2642
- For media enquiries relating to Professor Peter Sasieni, please contact: Rebecca Lewis, at Kings College London on Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org or 07961 046 728
Notes to editor
- Trial rollout: On September 13, media are invited to report on some of the first participants in the NHS-Galleri mobile clinic in Runcorn. In attendance and available for interview will be:
- Dame Cally Palmer, NHS National Director for Cancer
- Sir Harpal Kumar, President of GRAIL Europe
- Chris Warburton Medical Director at the Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance
- Also available for interview is Clinical Director for the East of England North Cancer Alliance, Dr Linda Hunter
Please contact the East of England press office to arrange an interview.
- NHS Digital is supporting through NHS DigiTrials, which allows secure and appropriate use of NHS data, helping clinical trials by reducing the time, effort and cost of developing new NHS innovations, bringing benefits to society and the NHS quickly and efficiently.
- The third sub-study of the Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas (CCGA) study, published in Annals of Oncology in June 2021, found that the Galleri test can identify many cancer types that are difficult to diagnose early and treat successfully. In 12 pre-specified cancers* that account for two-thirds of cancer deaths in the US each year (and a similar proportion in England), across all stages the detection rate was 76%. The study found that Galleri detected cancer signals from more than 50 different types of cancer with a low false positive rate of 0.5% or a specificity of 99.5%. *Anal, bladder, bowel, oesophageal, stomach, head and neck, liver and bile duct, lung, ovarian and pancreatic cancers, lymphoma and cancers of the plasma cells, such as multiple myeloma.
- The SYMPLIFY study: A second study called SYMPLIFY is being led by the University of Oxford – it will recruit around 6,000 symptomatic patients for Galleri testing who have been referred by their GP, in order to rule cancer in or out. Participants will be recruited from the two-week wait lung, gastrointestinal and gynaecological pathways as well as non-specific symptom Rapid Diagnostic Centre pathway. If successful, this will be extended to up to 25,000 people with symptoms that might be due to cancer.
- A major study of data relating to more than 200,000 cancer diagnoses in the UK showed that men, older people and those from economically deprived backgrounds were less likely to have cancers diagnosed at an earlier stage: Socio-demographic variation in stage at diagnosis of breast, bladder, colon, endometrial, lung, melanoma, prostate, rectal, renal and ovarian cancer in England and its population impact (nih.gov)
- Lung cancer is by far the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for around a fifth (21%) of all cancer deaths in females and males combined. The next most common causes of cancer death in UK people are bowel (10%), prostate, (7%) and breast (7%) cancers. Though there are more than 200 types of cancer, just these four types – lung, bowel, prostate and breast – together account for almost half (45%) of all cancer deaths in the UK.
GRAIL is a healthcare company whose mission is to detect cancer early, when it can be cured. GRAIL is focused on saving lives and improving health by pioneering new technologies for early cancer detection. The company is using the power of next-generation sequencing, population-scale clinical studies, and state-of-the-art computer science and data science to overcome one of medicine’s greatest challenges with Galleri™, GRAIL’s multi-cancer early detection blood test. With this proprietary technology, GRAIL is also developing solutions to help accelerate cancer diagnoses, blood-based detection for minimal residual disease, and other post-diagnostic applications. GRAIL is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with locations in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, and the United Kingdom. It is supported by leading global investors and pharmaceutical, technology, and healthcare companies.
 The trial is operating with the support of eight NHS Cancer Alliances across England: Cheshire &
Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Northern (serving the North East / Northern Cumbria), West
Midlands, East Midlands, East of England, Kent & Medway and South East London. Only people
living in these areas will be able to volunteer.