North East trials new cancer test

In a supermarket car park in Middlesbrough, work is taking place which could have a major impact on cancer diagnosis and treatment.

A mobile clinic has been set up, where, over the next few weeks, scores of people are giving blood. They are all volunteers, playing their part in a nationwide trial to screen for more than fifty types of cancer.

The North East is among eight areas to be involved. Billingham GP Dr Hassan Tahir, who has a special interest in cancer care, says the region has been chosen for several reasons.

The test works by detecting fragments of cancer DNA in the bloodstream. People between the ages of 50 and 77 and from a range of backgrounds have been invited to take part.

Half the samples will initially be picked at random to be screened using the new test. The remainder may be tested in the future.

A key aim is to identify those cancers which are hardest to spot in their early stages, such as head and neck, bowl and lung. The sooner a cancer is identified, the more treatable it is.

The mobile clinic in Middlesbrough

Geraldine Campbell from Middlesbrough is among those invited to join the trial. She told me she is taking part for future generations, including her own grandchildren.

The charity Cancer Research UK says it is awaiting the results with interest.

While appointment slots in Middlesbrough are now full, the mobile clinic will be moving to other parts of the region, including Hartlepool, Sunderland, Gateshead and Newcastle. 

The role of participants does not end there. They will be invited back next year and in 2023 to give two further blood samples. 

By that stage, researchers should be building a detailed picture of the usefulness of the test for widespread use in the NHS.