Walsall people encouraged to take part in ground-breaking blood test cancer trial
Thousands of letters are being sent to adults in Walsall this week, inviting them to take part in the world’s largest trial of a revolutionary new cancer-detecting blood test.
The potentially lifesaving Galleri™ test can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear. The NHS-Galleri trial, the first of its kind, aims to recruit 140,000 volunteers nationally, including thousands in the West Midlands, to see how well the test works in the NHS.
Walsall is the first location in the West Midlands to take part and will host a mobile clinic on Sainsbury’s car park on Reedswood Way. The clinic will be there for a month from 29 October before moving on to more locations in the West Midlands.
Letters from the NHS are being sent out this week, inviting some local people aged between 50 and 77 to take part in the trial, providing they haven’t had a cancer diagnosis or treatment in the last three years.
Participants will be asked to give a blood sample at the mobile clinic, and will then be invited back after 12 months, and again at two years, to give further samples.
Research has shown that this simple blood test is particularly effective at finding cancers that are usually 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 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 Joo Ee Teoh, GP Cancer Lead for the Black Country and West Birmingham, said: “Detecting cancer at an early stage when it is easier to treat is proven to improve your chances of survival. With many types of cancer nowadays, it’s even possible to make a full recovery if we can start treatment early enough.
“What makes the Galleri test so special is the potential to spot cancers long before symptoms even appear, and we’re delighted that Walsall has been chosen to be at the forefront of this important trial.
“I would encourage anyone who is invited to take part, to please do so. This is your chance to be part of some truly ground-breaking work to develop a test that has the potential to save countless lives in the future.”
West Midlands Cancer Alliance is supporting the project by helping to ensure that any local participants who test positive get the necessary follow-up appointments.
Sarah Hughes, Managing Director Cancer Alliances Midlands, welcomed the trial, saying: “If you receive a letter, please do consider volunteering as soon as you can by booking an appointment online or over the phone while the clinic is based in Walsall.”
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.
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’.
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.
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 England 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.”
In the meantime, local health chiefs are reminding people to keep up with their usual NHS screening appointments and stay alert to the symptoms of cancer.
Dr Masood Ahmed, Chief Medical Officer for Black Country and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The NHS’s screening programmes for breast, bowel and cervical cancer save lives every year by detecting these cancers at the earliest possible stage. Whether you are invited to take part in the Galleri trial or not, it’s really important to go for your routine screening appointments when invited.
“If you notice any changes or symptoms that worry you, at any time, your local NHS is here for you. Please don’t delay in seeking advice from your GP or visiting NHS 111 online.”