Skip to main content
HighlightsHighlights Archive

Lung cancer patients to benefit from innovative blood test as part of NHS pilot

By March 26, 2024No Comments

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.

Professor Dame Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for England, said: “This pilot is an exciting step in our work to bring more targeted treatments to NHS patients – the testing of thousands of patients with this innovative ctDNA test is part of our ongoing commitment to deliver a world-leading genomic medicine service and transform the way we diagnose and treat people – often with far greater speed and accuracy.

“This is just the latest example of the NHS collaborating with industry partners and leading the way in genomics by providing the latest, most innovative tests and treatments to help people live longer, healthier lives”.

Ben Kemp