Thousands of people in Derbyshire invited to help NHS trial new cancer test

A world-first clinical trial will begin soon in Derbyshire, offering volunteers the chance to take a revolutionary new blood test which can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear.

Selected people in Derbyshire aged 50-77 will receive a letter from the NHS over the coming weeks, inviting them to volunteer for the trial. 

Participants, who must not have had a cancer diagnosis or treatment in the last three years will have a small blood sample taken at a mobile clinic in Sainsbury’s on Peak Drive from 3 November to 3 December. They will be invited back after 12 months, and again at two years, to give further blood samples.

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 thousands in Derbyshire, to see how well the test works in the NHS.

The trial team are inviting people from a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities to ensure results are relevant for as many different people as possible.

Dr Louise Merriman, who is Clinical Lead for Cancer for NHS Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: "Most of us understand the benefits of finding cancer earlier, when it is easier to treat. Anyone who takes part in this trial will be at the forefront of developing a test which has the potential to save lives from cancer, and it's great that people in Derby and Derbyshire can get involved. Registering for the trial is easy – just look out for the letter which will show you how to book an appointment online or over the phone. I definitely want to encourage people to sign up.”

East Midlands Cancer Alliance is helping to ensure that participants who test positive in this region get the necessary follow-up appointments.

Head of the NHS East Midlands Cancer Alliance, Michael Ryan, said: “If you receive a letter do please consider volunteering as soon as you can to get an appointment while the clinic is based in Derbyshire.”

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 mobile clinic will move on to Northampton and further locations in the East Midlands following its time in Derbyshire.

The NHS-Galleri trial is being run by The Cancer Research UK and King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit in partnership with NHS England and healthcare company, GRAIL, which has developed the Galleri test.

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.

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. 

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’. 

Background

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.

Published:15/10/2021