Results from a clinical trial by Britain's National Health Service and Oxford University show a simple U.S.-developed blood test can diagnose cancers in people presenting with possible symptoms with a 75% accuracy rate. File photo by AhmadArdity/Pixabay
June 2 (UPI) -- Clinical trials by Britain's National Health Service of a U.S.-developed early cancer-detection blood test have found it can detect two out of three cancers.
The study in partnership with Oxford Cancer involving 6,000 people who had gone to their doctor with possible symptoms was to evaluate the multi-cancer blood test Galleri -- which tests for more than 50 types of cancer -- for future use in the NHS.
More than 47 of the 50 cancers Galleri tests for covered are not currently screened for in Britain while providing a false positive rate of less than 1% with a single drawing of blood.
Of participants whose blood tests were positive, 75% did have cancer, while only 2.5% of those who tested negative actually turned out to have cancer. Subsequent tests using traditional techniques -- scans and biopsies -- confirmed cancers in 350 participants.
Galleri proved especially adept at spotting cancers that often go undetected in the early stages including head, neck and throat, bowel, lung, and cancer of the pancreas.
The test works by detecting tiny fragments of tumor DNA circulating in the blood providing the potential for existing screening programs and current tests to diagnose cancers much earlier when they can be treated more effectively.
As well as finding two-thirds of cancers the test, developed by Grail, a biotech company based in Menlo Park, Calif., identified the original site of the cancer in 85% of positive cases.
"The test was 85% accurate in detecting the source of the cancer -- and that can be really helpful because so many times it is not immediately obvious when you have got the patient in front of you what test is needed to see whether their symptoms are down to cancer," Oxford University Oncology Head and lead researcher Professor Mark Middleton told the BBC.
"With that prediction from the test, we can decide whether to order a scope or a scan and make sure we are giving the right test the first time."
While there is more work and testing to be done, the Oxford University team believes the test could boost the number of cancers being diagnosed.
The Galleri test is already available in the United States by prescription for people with an elevated cancer risk, at a cost of around $949.
The NHS is also trialing the test on around 140,000 people aged 55-77 with no symptoms for potential mass cancer screening with plans to expand the trial to more than a million people next year and in 2025. Britain's free cradle-to-grave healthcare system for its entire 67 million population offers an unrivaled test bed for medical research, both in terms of data and sheer size.
The results of the NHS study are due to be published in The Lancet Oncology journal and presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference which opens in Chicago on Friday.