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Thousands more lung cancer patients to get innovative blood test as part of NHS pilot

​A blood test which could help thousands of people receive earlier, more targeted, lung cancer treatments is being trialled by the NHS. The circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) test, which will be offered to 10,000 patients by next March, can identify genetic variants in a tumour through a simple blood sample.

Patients that receive CT scan results showing suspected lung cancer will have a small blood sample sent to a genomic laboratory for ctDNA testing, with results returned in around 14 days.

Cancerous tumours often release pieces of DNA into the bloodstream (known as circulating tumour DNA) and these can be sampled using a ctDNA blood test to identify key genetic drivers of tumours.

Currently, tissue biopsies are used to confirm a diagnosis of lung cancer and samples can then be sent for genomic testing – but this new test could provide patients with these results faster, meaning they could start targeted treatment sooner.

The move from NHS England follows a smaller initial pilot which saw more than 2,000 patients referred for the service from 80 trusts across England.

The pilot is now set to be rolled out to provide the test for up to a further 10,000 patients with suspected non-small cell lung cancer by next March – and could involve most Trusts across the country.

This is just the latest innovation in cancer care on the NHS – earlier this month, the NHS rolled out a new immunotherapy for hundreds of women with advanced endometrial cancer and, last August, a world-first cancer jab that cuts treatment time by 75% to as little as 7 minutes.

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers, and around 34,000 people are diagnosed with it every year in England. Non-small-cell lung cancer is the most common lung cancer, accounting for around 80 to 85% of cases.

Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England, said: “This new blood test that we have been piloting has the potential to help many more cancer patients access targeted treatments more rapidly on the NHS, to make personalised treatments available sooner, and ensure that people with cancer have the best possible chance of survival.

“The NHS has shown it can lead the way on innovation in cancer diagnosis and treatment, and this pilot is another example of our commitment to getting patients cutting-edge treatments and therapies to improve outcomes, giving people facing lung cancer more precious time with loved ones.”

The NHS England pilot is being managed through the NHS Genomic Medicine Service, and led by the North Thames and North East and Yorkshire Genomic Medicine Service Alliances.

Commercial partners Guardant Health and Roche developed the liquid biopsy technology which is now used by the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust service known as Marsden360.

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Upcoming Events

Infection Prevention & Control

National Conference Centre, Birmingham
23rd - 24th April 2024

ESGE Days 2024, Symposium – ‘Elevating Endoscopy: Inspiring Progress and Innovation’

Estrel Congress Center (room 15), Berlin, Germany
25th April 2024, 16:30 – 17:30 CEST

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BCEC, Birmingham
29th April 2024

Theatres & Decontamination Conference 2024

Coventry Building Society Arena
16th May 2024

The AfPP Roadshow - Birmingham

Millennium Point, Birmingham
18th May 2024

BAUN Summer Educational Event – Essential Urology Skills

Crowne Plaza, Newcastle Stephenson Quarter
6th June 2024

Access the latest issue of Clinical Services Journal on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

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