NHS to pilot blood test that identifies 50 types of cancer

NHS Englwill pilot a blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer before clinical signs or symptoms emerge. This includes ovarian, pancreatic, oesophageal, bowel lung cancers.

Developed by US-based medtech company GRAIL, the Galleri test uses a machine learning algorithm to examine cell-free DNA (cfDNA) that leaks from tumours into the bloodstream. It detects chemical changes, known as methylation patterns, with a false positive rate of only 0.5%.

Initial studies used patients whose cancer had already been diagnosed through other means correctly identified cancers in over 50% of cases correctly located the tissues affected in 88.7% of cases.


NHS Englwill pilot Galleri from mid-2021 with 165,000 people. Participants will predominantly be 50-79 year olds with no symptoms who will take annual blood tests. If the pilot proves successful, it will be expanded to one million participants across 2024 2025.

Nearly 200,000 people die from cancer in the UK each year over a thouspeople are diagnosed every day.

In 2018, the UK government announced plans to invest in AI for early cancer chronic disease detection. The NHS Long Term Plan seeks to increase cancer diagnosis at Stage One Two, where patients typically have between five ten times the chance of survival compared with diagnosis at Stage Four.


Grail is not the only medtech company seeking to further early-stage cancer detection. In 2018, Singapore-based enterprise Ark raised a record-breaking $40 million in Series A funding to develop a blood test for early stomach cancer detection in Asia.

Early this year, Israel-based Ibex Medical Analytics raised $38 million in Series B funding to support its Galen platform, which uses AI to support cancer diagnostics.


Sir Harpal Kumar, president of GRAIL Europe, said: “Galleri, a simple blood test that’s capable of detecting more than 50 cancers, is a ground-breaking potentially life-saving advance that could have a tremendous human economic benefit. Grail is thrilled to partner with the NHS UK government to support the NHS Long Term Plan for earlier cancer diagnosis, we are eager to bring our technology to patients in the UK as quickly as we can.”

NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Early detection – particularly for hard-to-treat conditions like ovarian 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.”

Dr Marco Gerlinger from London’s Institute of Cancer Research said: “This new study shows impressive results for a simple blood test that can detect multiple cancer types. False positives are low which is important as this will avoid misdiagnoses. For some of the most common tumour types such as bowel or lung cancer, the test even picked up cancers that were very small, at a stage where many of them could potentially be cured.”

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