A blood test that can identify 50 cancers early is set to be rolled out to a million people on the NHS from 2024, the head of the NHS has said.
Chief executive Amanda Pritchard said the Galleri test has the potential to “transform cancer care forever.”
The test detects fragments of tumour DNA that circulate in the bloodstream.
It can detect cancers that are not routinely screened for and can find where the disease is coming from in the body with a high degree of accuracy.
Doctors involved in the programme have said they hope people will eventually be offered regular home testing, so they can screen for cancer, like Covid testing during the pandemic.
Amanda Pritchard said:
“If provisional results prove successful, we will be rolling out the test to an extra one million people across the country from next summer, with the aim of diagnosing thousands more people with cancer at an earlier stage.
“Lives are saved when cancers are caught early, and this test has the potential to transform cancer care forever – especially for the types that often don’t show symptoms until a later stage when they can be much harder to treat.”
A separate study published at a major cancer conference in the US suggested the Galleri blood test could help speed up diagnosis and fast-track patients for treatment.
Meanwhile, in a smaller NHS trial, among 6,238 people in England or Wales who had visited their GP with suspected symptoms, the test was able to detect signs of cancer in 323 of them.
A total of 244 of the trial participants were subsequently diagnosed with cancer.
The Galleri test, which is currently available in the US, does not detect all cancers and will probably not replace NHS screening programmes, such as those for breast, bowel and cervical cancer.