Trinity Fellow Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, Founder & Director of the CRUK Cambridge Centre Early Detection Institute, has won Cancer Research Horizons’ Impact Recognition Award.
Professor Fitzgerald’s innovation of the Cytosponge – the pill on a string – has proved its efficacy in detecting a condition that can lead to oesophageal cancer. Around 9,200 people are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in the UK each year. Early diagnosis is crucial to patients’ survival.
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.
Initial trials of the Cytosponge identified ten times more people with the pre-cancerous condition Barrett’s oesophagus than the conventional detection method of an endoscopy. Over 12,000 Cytosponge tests have been delivered to the NHS to help with endoscopy back-logs caused by the pandemic.
The latest trial of 120,000 people will investigate whether Cytosponge can prevent deaths from oesophageal cancer when offered as a screening test to people on long-term medication for heartburn – one of the most common Barrett’s oesophagus symptoms. The £6.4 million BEST4 trial is funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research.
Professor Fitzgerald’s latest award – she received an OBE in 2022 – comes from Cancer Research Horizons, which collaborates with researchers and industry to catalyze drug discovery, development and commercialisation to fast-track scientific breakthroughs for patient benefit.
In announcing the Impact Recognition Award, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK Michelle Mitchell paid tribute to Professor Fitzgerald’s ‘outstanding contribution to oncology and her determination to drive forward the translation and commercialisation of her discoveries for patient benefit.’
Professor Fitzgerald said: ‘It is an honour to receive an award that recognises the impact on patients arising from our research.’