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A new blood test can detect over 50 types of cancer

June 12th, 2023

A new multi-cancer blood test shows real promise in a trial led by Professor Mark Middleton at the University of Oxford in England. The Galleri blood test is for the early detection of over 50 types of cancer. The test would give a greater chance of successful treatment of life-threatening diseases. There is a great need to improve cancer screening pathways and to provide new diagnostic technologies that reduce the strain on healthcare providers. 

The Galleri blood test

The Galleri blood test looks for cancer signals. It can detect DNA from cancer cells in the body called ctDNA. The blood test is not available outside of clinical trials at the moment. The test has not been cleared or approved by the FDA (food and drug administration). It is a work in progress, and the recently published ‘Simplify’ study has shown great hope for the future diagnosis and treatment of different cancers. There are 200 types of cancer, and to be able to detect 50 of them at such an early stage would be a great medical achievement.

The ‘Simplify’ study

The Galleri blood test trial was for people in England and Wales. The observational ‘Simplify’ study is the first-ever, large-scale evaluation study of multi-cancer early detection (MCDE). The University of Oxford sponsored the study, the development and production of the blood test was funded by the US healthcare company GRAIL and the study was supported by the NHS in the UK. In the end, 6328 people over the age of 18 were included.

There were/are specific criteria for participants of the study:

  • Each adult had to have been referred for diagnostic testing for cancer, including urgent imaging.
  • Referrals were based most commonly on post-menopausal bleeding, unexpected weight loss and/or a change in bowel habits including rectal bleeding. Abdominal pain, general pain, anaemia or difficulty swallowing were also included.
  • The patients went through the normal diagnostic process as well as having the Galleri blood test
  • The results of the tests were compared
  • 85% of the positive tests from the Galleri blood test were a correct diagnosis

Read more details about the Simplify study here

The NHS revealed that 1 in 2 people will develop a type of cancer in their lifetime. Age is the biggest risk factor with people over the age of 50 being 13 times more likely to develop cancer compared to those under the age of 50.

When the Galleri blood test is FDA-approved, it should result in a greater chance of successful treatment of different cancers, reducing the need for chemotherapy. According to CNN Health, a survey by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network revealed that more than 90% of large US cancer centres report a shortage of life-saving chemo drugs. 

The need for early detection of cancer to reduce the demand for chemotherapy treatment is vital. 




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