A new test which could detect more than 50 types of cancer is to be trialled at three NHS trusts in London, including the Royal Free London (RFL).

The nation-wide SYMPLIFY study, supported by the National Institute for Health Research, will investigate a new multi-cancer early detection (MCED) test in the NHS, known as Galleri, for patients with non-specific symptoms that may be a result of cancer.

The aim of the SYMPLIFY study, open at RFL, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) and North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust (North Mid), is to demonstrate how the Galleri test could be used to increase cancer detection rates and improve diagnostic pathways. Recruitment of participants started in summer 2021, with the research team seeking to recruit around 6,000 patients with early signs and symptoms suspicious for cancer from sites across England and Wales by 29 October 2021. These patients will have been referred by their GP for rapid diagnostic tests looking for cancer and a Galleri blood sample will also be taken. 

Galleri is a blood test that can detect over 50 different types of cancers with a low false positive rate of less than 1 percent. Over 47 of these cancer types lack recommended screening in the UK today. Using revolutionary next-generation sequencing technology, Galleri has the potential to identify multiple types of cancers at earlier stages of disease compared with traditional diagnostic methods, which should increase the chance of successful treatment and improve outcomes for patients.

SYMPLIFY will assess how Galleri can be used to benefit patients with non-specific symptoms that may be a result of cancer. The SYMPLIFY study is one of the UK-based clinical trials that GRAIL is supporting, along with the recently announced NHS-Galleri trial evaluating the Galleri test in primary care settings. Successful results may see this technology radically revolutionising how cancer is identified in the future.

Dr Anant Patel (pictured), respiratory consultant and the trial's principal investigator at the RFL, said: “We are delighted to take part in this large trial to see where a blood test looking for cancer may fit in or potentially change what we currently do. The early diagnosis of cancer is paramount in making sure we can treat it as effectively as possible. A sensitive and specific blood test for cancer would be revolutionary. Collaborating with our colleagues at UCLH and North Mid to deliver this important study demonstrates our trust’s commitment to ensuring access to world-leading clinical research for the entire north London population.” 

Dr Vinay Sehgal, who is leading the trial at UCLH, said: “The early detection of all cancers is of paramount importance to improving long-term outcomes and survival. This simple blood test may help us to detect over 50 different cancers at an earlier and potentially curable stage. It has been a privilege to lead the research team at UCLH in this exciting study which will potentially revolutionise the landscape for early suspected cancer diagnoses.”

Dr Andrew Millar, SYMPLIFY trial lead at the North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust, said: “At North Mid, our vision is to provide outstanding care for the local community and beyond by ensuring we always put patients first. If the research conducted is successful, it will bring a revolutionary change to the diagnosis of cancer in the UK.

"This new test will play a pivotal role in ensuring cancer is diagnosed as early as possible whilst also allowing us to identify a potential 'organ of origin’ and pursue further investigations at an earlier stage. Patients who go for a screening test as well as those whose symptoms are non-specific will benefit from a simple yet life-changing blood test."

Dr Pippa Corrie, NIHR Clinical Research Network, National Specialty Lead for Cancer Late Phase and International Trials, said: “We are delighted that the NIHR Clinical Research Network is actively facilitating delivery of the ground-breaking SYMPLIFY study, which is testing an innovative blood test to identify early signs of cancer by recruiting 6,000 participants attending rapid diagnostic clinics at multiple secondary care trusts across England in record time.”