Piloting Circulating Tumour DNA (ctDNA) Testing in Lung Cancer Patients for Earlier Diagnosis and Personalised Treatment

The North East and Yorkshire GMS is co-leading a national pilot, with the NHS North Thames Genomic Medicine Service, to gather evidence about the effectiveness of using ctDNA to guide diagnosis and treatment for patients with lung cancer. This pilot has now entered Phase 3.

In collaboration with the four Cancer Alliances in the region, Phases 1 and 2 saw the NEY GMS working with clinicians to identify and test eligible patients and report findings to evidence potential benefits. Early findings suggested that efforts like this are crucial in advancing cancer diagnostics and improving patient outcomes, so this work is now expanding.

To understand more about the benefits for patients, read Kat’s Story

What is Circulating Tumour DNA (ctDNA)?

  • As tumours grow, they often release fragments (called circulating tumour DNA [ctDNA]) into a patient’s bloodstream.
  • Detecting ctDNA in the blood provides evidence of the presence of a tumour and valuable insights into tumour type.

Potential Benefits for Patients

  • The ctDNA test is a simple blood test (or liquid biopsy) and is more comfortable for patients who may be unwell, hopefully avoiding the need for a more invasive tumour biopsy.
  • A liquid biopsy potentially leads to faster diagnosis, more targeted treatment and monitoring.
  • Ultimately, this approach may save lives by identifying cancer at an earlier stage.

Which Patients are Eligible for ctDNA Testing?

  • The pilot focuses on patients when first presenting with presumed local advanced or metastatic lung cancer.
  • Patients from the NEY region are eligible although the pilot covers the whole of England.

Progress and Next Steps – Delivering Phase 3

  • Phase 3 builds on the work already delivered over the past two years – expanding to more hospitals with the aim of testing 10,000 patients nationally by the March 2025.
  • It will also focus on refining ctDNA testing protocols and assessing cost-effectiveness as well as clinical utility.
  • The goal remains early cancer diagnosis and improved patient outcomes.


Resources for referring clinicians: Phase 3 Pathway 

Clinical Lead – Professor Alastair Greystoke, NEY GMS Clinical Director (Cancer)

How can I learn more?

Contact us to learn more

[email protected]

Our project team are:

Professor Alistair Greystoke, NEY GMS Clinical Director (Cancer)