(CNN) –– The National Health Service of Great Britain (NHS) will do the pilot trial of a simple blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer. The test is also expected to help thousands of people by allowing the disease to be treated successfully at an earlier stage.
This is the Galleri blood test, which was developed by the California healthcare company Grail. The pilot program will include 165,000 patients in what the NHS described as a “first global agreement” in a press release issued Friday.
Grail, whose work focuses on early detection of cancer, is endorsed by several recognized investors. Among them, tech billionaire Bill Gates and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The NHS hopes that the blood test will be especially helpful in identifying certain types of cancer that are currently difficult to diagnose and treat early.
“Early detection – especially for difficult-to-treat conditions like ovarian and pancreatic cancer – has the potential to save many lives,” said NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens.
More than 1,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every day in Britain, he added.
The pilot program, which will begin in mid-2021, will involve 165,000 people. They include 140,000 of those 50 to 79 years old who do not have symptoms, but who will undergo annual blood tests for three years.
The remaining 25,000 participants will be people with possible cancer symptoms, who will be offered the blood test to speed up their diagnosis after they are referred to the hospital in the usual way, according to the press release.
The NHS noted that the results are expected to be in 2023. After that, the expectation is that one million people can receive the test by 2025, the entity added. And from then on this option would be extended to the general population, according to the NHS.
In Britain, around half of cancers are currently diagnosed at stage one or two. However, the NHS aims to increase that figure to three-quarters by 2028, according to the press release.
Grail said in a statement that based on data from the model, “adding Galleri to the existing standard of care has the potential to cut the number of late-stage diagnosed cancers by half. Which could reduce the total number of cancer deaths in Britain by about a fifth. ‘
Britain’s five-year relative cancer survival rate is below the European average, according to the Cancer Research UK charity.
Lawrence Young, professor of Molecular Oncology at the University of Warwick, said the Galleri test is one of the new blood tests developed to detect cancer at a very early stage. Precisely when the disease is more easily treated.
“There are several clinical trials evaluating this approach. And a publication by the Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas (CCGA) consortium examining Galleri’s test in 6,689 participants produced very encouraging results in more than 50 different cancers at different stages of development, ”he told the Science Media Center.
However, not all cancer experts agree with the NHS pilot for Galleri’s blood test.
Paul Pharoah, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology at Cambridge University, is one of them. In conversation with the Science Media Center, he said he has questions about the scientific basis of the pilot based on the limited published research that is available.
‘The Galleri blood test could detect cancer in the blood of people who have early-stage disease. Although the evidence that it does so effectively is weak, “he said. “The NHS should not invest in such a test before it has been properly evaluated in well-conducted large-scale clinical trials.”
Michelle Mitchell, CEO of Cancer Research UK, said tests like the one developed by Grail have “great transformative potential.” That is, if they are effective in detecting cancer early, he said.
Dr Jodie Moffat, head of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said the results of studies outside Britain so far have been promising. ‘But the sample sizes, especially for some cancers, have been very small. And so they need to be tested on a much larger sample and with longer follow-up of patients who do not test positive on blood to understand where it stops detecting cancers, “he told the Science Media Center.
“Based on the evidence we have seen, the test is currently not that good at detecting stage I cancer, where it is small and has not spread to other parts of the body,” he added.
Amy Cassidy and Sarah Diab, both from CNN, contributed to this report.