A simple blood test that could detect more than 50 types of cancer will be trialled by the NHS.
More than 165,000 people in England will be offered the Galleri blood test, which can spot early-stage cancers years before diagnosis.
The test, developed by the US company Grail, is designed to detect molecular changes caused by cancer in people with no obvious symptoms.
It may be able to identify cancers that are difficult to diagnose early, such as head and neck, ovarian, pancreatic, oesophageal and some blood cancers.
The large-scale pilot is due to start in mid-2021 and if the test works as expected for people without symptoms, it will be rolled out more widely.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, said the test had the potential to “save many lives”.
He said: “While the good news is that cancer survival is now at a record high, over a thousand people every day are newly diagnosed with cancer.
“Early detection – particularly for hard-to-treat conditions like ovarian and pancreatic cancer – has the potential to save many lives.
“This promising blood test could therefore be a game-changer in cancer care, helping thousands more people to get successful treatment.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are building a world-leading diagnostics industry in the UK – not just for coronavirus but for other diseases too.
“This exciting and groundbreaking new blood test from Grail will give us another tool to give more people the very best chance of survival, demonstrating how the UK continues to lead the way in using the latest innovative treatments to help patients.
“Many of us know a loved one who has battled against cancer and have seen first-hand the impact of this deadly disease.”
Diana Jupp, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer UK, also welcomed the news. “It’s fantastic to see investment in such a large-scale pilot with the ambition to improve early diagnosis, not just for well-known cancers, but also for devastating diseases like pancreatic cancer that have been overlooked for so long,” she said.
“The lack of a simple test leaves thousands of families in the UK each year hearing the most heart-breaking news: that their loved one cannot have lifesaving treatment because it’s simply too late.”