Doctors have told UK health services to prepare for a new era of cancer screening after a study found a simple blood test could spot multiple cancer types in patients before they develop clear symptoms.
The Pathfinder study offered the blood test to more than 6,600 adults aged 50 and over, and detected dozens of new cases of disease. Many cancers were at an early stage and nearly three-quarters were forms not routinely screened for.
It is the first time results from the Galleri test, which looks for cancer DNA in the blood, have been returned to patients and their doctors, to guide cancer investigations and any necessary treatment.
The Galleri test has been described as a potential “gamechanger” by NHS England, which is due to report results from a major trial involving 165,000 people next year. Doctors hope the test will save lives by detecting cancer early enough for surgery and treatment to be more effective, but the technology is still in development.
“I think what’s exciting about this new paradigm and concept is that many of these were cancers for which we do not have any standard screening,” Dr Deb Schrag, a senior researcher on the study at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told the European Society for Medical Oncology meeting in Paris on Sunday.
Beyond spotting the presence of disease, the further good news is that the test predicts where the cancer is, allowing doctors to fast-track the follow-up work needed to locate and confirm a cancer.
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