Trials of Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald’s Cytosponge have found the ‘pill on a string’ can identify ten times more people with the pre-cancerous condition Barrett’s oesophagus than the conventional detection methods.
The trial findings, published in The Lancet and funded by Cancer Research UK, will pave the way for GP surgeries to use the Cytosponge – a quick, simple and better-tolerated test than an endoscopy.
The Cytosponge is a pill with a thread attached that the patient swallows; it expands into a tiny sponge when it reaches the stomach and is then pulled back up the throat by a nurse, on the way collecting cells from the oesophagus for analysis using a new laboratory marker called TFF3.
Professor Fitzgerald, who is Professor of Cancer Prevention at the Medical Research Council Cancer Unit, said the latest trial confirmed that the Cytosponge would enable doctors to more accurately predict if someone was at risk of oesophageal cancer and reduce unnecessary endoscopies.
I am delighted that The Lancet have published the next exciting stage in our research which shows on a large scale that our Cytosponge-TFF3 test is effective at detecting the pre-cancerous condition for cancer of the oesophagus. It’s exciting to be at the forefront of developments that directly benefit patients’ lives and I look forward to the Cytosponge being rolled out for widespread use in GP and other clinics.
Following an economic evaluation, the Cytosponge could be rolled out to GP practices in three to five years.
Around 9,200 people are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in the UK each year. Early diagnosis is crucial to patients’ survival. Eighty five per cent of people diagnosed with the earliest stage of oesophageal cancer in England survive their cancer for one year or more.
Professor Fitzgerald and team are working on additional lab tests on cells collected by Cytosponge that could detect those at greatest risk and avoid endoscopy for the majority of patients.
Professor Fitzgerald said:
‘As a Fellow at Trinity involved with admissions and teaching in Medical Sciences I hope that I can inspire others to be involved with research into medical innovations.’
Professor Fitzgerald will give a talk to Trinity alumni on 11 August at 1pm BST via Zoom Webinar. Alumni can book tickets bit.ly/2PfAsyM
Read The Lancet article here.