NHS England is set to roll out a simple blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer.
The test is able to pick up on 50 types of cancer before any clinical signs or symptoms of the disease and will be part of a new system of multi-cancer screening tests.
The idea is that the test would be given to patients over 50 years or older to identify the types of cancer that are difficult to diagnose early (for example; pancreatic, oesophageal, head and neck, ovarian, and a few types of blood cancers).
Scientists behind the new test published their results this week in the journal Annals of Oncology.
They were able to show the test do accurately detects cancer while importantly having a very low false-positive rate.
The test has been created by US-based company Grail and works by looking for chemical changes in fragments of genetic code.
This is called cell-free DNA (cfDNA) and it is detected because it leaks from tumours into the bloodstream.
The trial looked at 3,537 people – of which 80% had some form of cancer. The test correctly identified when cancer was present in 51.5% of cases only wrongly detected cancer in only 0.5% of cases.
The results could be critical at catching hard to detect cancers that do not currently have good screening options.
The NHS is not set to run a Grail pilot in autumn 2021 which will include 140,000 participants. The results are expected by 2023.