140,000 people join cancer screening trial through NHS DigiTrials service

Over 140,000 people have signed up to take part in a trial of a blood test said to detect more than 50 types of cancer.

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

Around 1.5 million people aged 50-77 in select English postcodes were invited to take part in the trial via the NHS DigiTrials service, which monitors participant representativeness by postcode to dynamically adjust enrolment.

Over 150 locations have been set up for volunteers to have a blood test, such as supermarkets, leisure centre car parks, and places of worship.

The test finds chemical changes in fragments of DNA that shed from tumours into the bloodstream. Researchers will monitor participants at follow-up appointments, enabling them to develop their understanding of whether the test can be used in the future as part of the NHS cancer screening programme. If successful, the NHS intend to roll it out to a further million people in 2024-2025.

“Trial organisers have made particular efforts to achieve representation of people from minority ethnic backgrounds,” noted King’s, “who are often less likely to take part in medical research studies. Activity included working with specific GP practices to send invitations to their ethnic minority patient lists, community group briefings, leaflet distribution in relevant community settings such as places of worship, working with community champions and targeted social media posts.”

Professor Peter Sasieni, lead investigator and Director of The Cancer Research UK and King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit, said:  “NHS-Galleri has set a new standard in the speed of set-up and recruitment to clinical trials. Previous trials of this magnitude would typically have taken five times as long. Accelerating research means that we will find out sooner whether new technology has a role in the control of cancer and, if it does, introducing it within the NHS quickly so that more people can benefit.”

Eight NHS Cancer Alliances are supporting the trial, spanning Cheshire and Merseyside, Greater Manchester, the North East and North Cumbria, West Midlands, East Midlands, East of England, Kent and Medway, and South East London.