Man holding his chest

New backing for team behind innovation that spots oesophageal cancer earlier

The health professionals who developed the innovative cytosponge which can diagnose oesophageal cancer earlier have been boosted by a £13.4m investment to expand their work, the NHS in Cambridge has announced.

The cytosponge comprises of a small coated pill attached to a string surrounded by sponge which is swallowed by patients. Upon reaching the stomach, the coating on the pill dissolves and the sponge expands.

On its way back up, the sponge collects cells in the oesophagus lining which are then sent to labs to analyse whether there are signs of Barret’s oesophagus – a precursor to cancer.

It is estimated that over 15,000 patients have already benefitted from the innovation via the NHS, with this fresh funding set to increase that number.

The finding will help the provision of cytosponge testing expand into primary and community care settings across the East of England, Lancashire and Wessex regions.

There were more than 9,000 new cases of this type of cancer between 2016 and 2018 in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK. This is coupled with further estimations of over 8,000 deaths between 2017 and 2019 by the charity.

Spotting Barret’s oesophagus earlier in turn allows for earlier diagnoses of oesophageal cancer, which Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust describes as a “global public health priority”.

Catching cancer earlier was something Sir Keir Starmer committed to during his speech announcing the Labour Party’s NHS mission.

After pledging to ensure that 75% of all cancers are diagnosed at stage one or two, he said: “The survival rate for cancer at stage one and two is 81%, but at stage three and four it’s just 26%.”

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