Thousands of People in South East London Invited to Help NHS Trial New Cancer Test

Published on: 13 September 2021

South east London has been selected as one of eight areas of the country to take part in the world’s largest trial of a revolutionary new blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear.

People in Sydenham will be among the first to have blood samples taken at mobile testing clinics in retail parks and other convenient community locations in the area.

The potentially lifesaving Galleri™ test checks for the earliest signs of cancer in the blood and the NHS-Galleri trial, the first of its kind, aims to recruit 140,000 volunteers nationally, including thousands in south east London, to see how well the test works in the NHS.

Dr Vin Diwakar, Regional Medical Director for the NHS in London, explained: “All of us worry about cancer and this quick and simple blood test has the potential to revolutionise how we detect cancer by finding tumours before symptoms even appear – and we know that treating patients early gives them the best chance of survival.”

South East London Cancer Alliance is helping to ensure that volunteers who test positive across the region are appropriately investigated and receive the best possible care within the NHS.

Dr Anthony Cunliffe, Joint Clinical Chair at South East London Cancer Alliance which is involved in co-ordinating the trial locally, said: “Londoners unfortunately have particularly high rates of some of the cancers that are most difficult to spot early. When diagnosed late, cancer can lead to devastating consequences among families and communities. Being one of the first areas of the country to trial the Galleri blood test brings an opportunity for our local NHS to diagnose early cancer in people who haven't yet recognised any concerning symptoms, helping get a jump start on beating the disease. Taking part in this trial is easy – if you receive an invitation in the post then simply follow the instructions to book into a nearby site.”

The test is a simple blood test that research has shown is particularly effective at finding cancers that are difficult to identify early – such as head and neck, bowel, lung, pancreatic, and throat cancers.

It works by finding chemical changes in fragments of genetic code – cell-free DNA (cfDNA) – that leak from tumours into the bloodstream.

The NHS in South East London is already sending out thousands of letters inviting local people from different background and ethnicities aged between 50 and 77 to take part.

Participants, who must not have had a cancer diagnosis in the last three years, will be asked to give a blood sample at a locally based mobile clinic and they will then be invited back after 12 months, and again at two years, to give further blood samples.

The first location in south east London to host a mobile clinic is Sydenham in Sainsbury’s car park on Southend Lane. The clinic will stay until 26 September before moving on to Bromley and then on to Elephant and Castle.

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

Prof Peter Sasieni, Director of The Cancer Research UK & King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit and one of the trial’s lead investigators, said: “We need to study the Galleri test carefully to find out whether it can significantly reduce the number of cancers diagnosed at a late stage. The test could be a game-changer for early cancer detection and we are excited to be leading this important research. Cancer screening can find cancers earlier when they are more likely to be treated successfully, but not all types of screening work.

“Joining the trial is easy, and we are particularly keen to attract volunteers from diverse communities in south east London to ensure the results are relevant for as many different people as possible.”

The NHS-Galleri trial is a Randomised Control Trial (RCT) – meaning that half the participants will have their blood sample screened with the Galleri test right away and the other half will have their sample stored and may be tested in the future. This will allow scientists to compare the stage at which cancer is detected between the two groups.

People will only know they’re in the test group if they are among the small minority whose test detects potential signals of cancer in their blood. These people will be contacted by the trial nurse by phone and referred to an NHS hospital for further tests.

All participants will be advised to continue with their standard NHS screening appointments and to still contact their GP if they notice any new or unusual symptoms.

Temi Adeloye, a specialist district nurse practitioner from Peckham working for the NHS in London, will be among NHS-Galleri's first participants when she visits the Sydenham site on Monday. She said:

"I lost my dearest loving mother to pancreatic cancer when she was only 67. She had worked hard all her life to bring up her six children and passed away only two brief years after her retirement and less than 90 days after cancer diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer mostly shows symptoms only when it has advanced and when basically nothing could be done in terms of treatment.

"I am a specialist district nurse practitioner and my husband, Rev. Dr Emmanuel Adeloye is a Clergyman and Vicar in the Church of England. In our jobs, we meet a lot of people living and dying with cancer. It's disheartening that many people die when they might have had much more of a chance of surviving or having a better quality of life had they been diagnosed earlier.

"So when I heard about this trial, it sounded really exciting - I strongly recommend to anyone aged 50-77 and living in South East London, to look out for your letter and please volunteer for this trial if they can."

Sir Harpal Kumar, President of GRAIL Europe, said: “We’re delighted to partner with the NHS to support the NHS Long Term Plan for earlier cancer diagnosis, and we are eager to bring our technology to people in the UK as quickly as we can. The Galleri test can not only detect a wide range of cancer types but can also predict where the cancer is in the body with a high degree of accuracy. The test is particularly strong at detecting deadly cancers and has a very low rate of false positives.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The UK’s world leading scientists continue to pioneer innovative cancer diagnosis and treatments so our brilliant NHS staff have the tools to spot the disease as early as possible and give people the care they need.

“Early diagnosis can save lives and this revolutionary new test can detect cancers before symptoms even appear, giving people the best possible chance of beating the disease. 

“Ensuring fewer people need treatment for advanced cancer is vital for patient care and another example of the NHS innovating to be more efficient – which will be crucial in bringing down the backlog.”

Initial results of the study are expected by 2023 and, if successful, NHS England plans to extend the rollout to a further one million people in 2024 and 2025.

The trial is the latest initiative launched by the NHS to meet its Long Term Plan commitment of finding three-quarters of cancers at an early stage by 2028.

Patients whose condition is diagnosed at ‘stage one’ typically have between five and 10 times the chance of surviving compared with those found at ‘stage four’.

Note to potential volunteers

If you are interested in the NHS-Galleri trial, please be aware that at present the trial is only recruiting participants who have received an invitation letter and unique code. If you have received an invitation letter please follow the instructions within the letter to book an appointment. Please visit which has more information and will be updated if this situation changes.

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