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Cytosponge: A ‘sponge on a string’ test to detect oesophageal cancer earlier

Lilly Matson
by Lilly Matson | Analysis

31 July 2020

92 comments 92 comments

The Cytosponge
The Cytosponge can be used to detect oesophageal cancer earlier.

Around 9,100 people are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer each year in the UK. 

A big challenge with this type of cancer is that many people don’t realise there’s a problem until they start to have trouble swallowing. Often, these symptoms aren’t recognisable until a later stage in the disease.  

But there may be an opportunity to detect the disease earlier. Some people develop a condition – called Barrett’s oesophagus – prior to developing into cancer. 

Barrett’s oesophagus is much more common than oesophageal cancer, and although it will only become cancer in a handful of cases, it presents an opportunity for doctors to spot a problem early and intervene before cancer develops. But the typical test for Barrett’s oesophagus, endoscopy, is both invasive and expensive. 

Enter the Cytosponge.  

Cytosponge-TFF3 test is a ‘sponge on a string’ device coupled with a laboratory test called TFF3 developed by scientists funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Cancer Research UK – a simple, quick and affordable test for Barrett’s oesophagus that can be done in a GP surgery.  

And the latest results, published in The Lancet, suggest this Cytosponge-TFF3 test can identify ten times more people with Barrett’s oesophagus than current GP care. 

We caught up with Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, based at the University of Cambridge, whose team studies oesophageal cancer and has worked hard over the last decade to develop this innovative test.

How does it work?

Cytosponge is a small coated pill on a string that contains the sponge. It’s easy for people to swallow, and when the pill reaches the stomach, the coating dissolves and the sponge expands.  

When the sponge is pulled back up, it collects some of the cells lining the oesophagus on its way. The sponge is sent off for analysis in the lab, “where we have developed a simple antibody test called TFF3 so that pathologists can easily spot the signs precancerous condition”.  

Planting the seeds 

A seed was planted for the idea for the Cytosponge in around 2000, whilst Fitzgerald was still in London.  

“I was talking with my boss, Professor Mike Farthing, about how an endoscopy isn’t ideal for patients and for sampling, and how what you really need is some kind of bottle brush for easy collection of cells.”  

But it was when Fitzgerald moved her research to Cambridge in 2002 that she began a prototype for this ‘bottle-brush’ idea. Over the years, the prototype evolved into what’s now recognised as the Cytosponge, which has been tested on thousands of people across the country.  

The first real test for Cytosponge was to see if people were willing to try the sponge-on-a-string, and whether the process was feasible in a GP surgery.  

And once that hurdle was cleared, it was time to test the accuracy of Cytosponge in clinical trials.

The latest results  

The latest Cytosponge trial compared Cytosponge to the current model for managing people with heartburn symptoms, the main risk factor for Barrett’s and cancer of the oesophagus.  

“What GPs ordinarily do if you’ve got reflux symptoms is to give you medication to get rid of the heartburn. So, most patients that see their GP with heartburn won’t get an endoscopy test,” Fitzgerald explains.  

“Because the Cytosponge is such a simple test that you can do, basically in 10 minutes in a GP surgery, we wanted to compare what GP’s ordinarily do, with offering all patients who usually receive medication for heartburn the Cytosponge test.” 

13,000 patients were enrolled in the study from GP surgeries across England. Half of these patients were offered the standard clinical care, while the other half were offered the Cytosponge.  

At the end of the trial, the team analysed how many cases of Barrett’s oesophagus were picked up in each of the two arms of the trial, and the results were quite remarkable.  

“We found 10 times more cases of Barrett’s oesophagus in the people that were offered a Cytosponge compared with what GP’s ordinarily do,” says Fitzgerald.  

What’s more, the trial picked up a number of early stage cancers too.  

“If the cancer is detected early you can cure the disease. You can remove it completely at endoscopy and the patient may not need to have chemotherapy and surgery to remove the oesophagus,” Fitzgerald explains.  

The results will not only change the way Barrett’s oesophagus and oesophageal cancer is detected in the future, the success of the BEST3 trial has meant that cancers have been successfully detected and treated in those who took part.  

Liz is one of those cases.

Liz’s story 

Woman doing pottery

Liz took part in the BEST3 trial in 2017.

Liz had suffered with acid reflux for many years. When she received a letter from her GP about the BEST3 trial, she signed up out of pure curiosity.  

“I was curious about the trial because I’d never heard of Barrett’s oesophagus and so I just took part out of interest,” Liz explains.   

A fortnight after having the Cytosponge test at her local GP surgery, Liz received a letter saying that the test indicated she did have Barrett’s oesophagus. Next, Liz required an endoscopy to clarify the results.  

“I went and had an endoscopy and even I could see that things were not very good in my oesophagus. It was extremely inflamed and bleeding and not healthy looking at all.”  

The endoscopy also revealed that she had early stage oesophageal cancer, “that was the moment when you suddenly think, oh, this is bad”.  

Thankfully, the cancer had been caught early by the Cytosponge. “I didn’t have to have any harmful treatments at all. They could remove it by doing an endoscopic resection,” says Liz.  

Liz is a retired scientist, who has experience of working in research labs. “I understood about a lot of the processes,” she explains, “there’s a huge amount of science behind it, but the procedure itself is so simple. It is, to my mind, a perfect test that could easily be carried out widely in the community.” 

This was in 2017, at the beginning of the BEST3 trial. Since then, Liz has been busy enjoying life to the full. “Last year, as well as enjoying a 90-mile walk along the Ridgeway, I was able to put my hobby of pottery to good use by making a hundred coasters bearing an image of the Cytosponge. These were sent as a small thank you gift to the research nurses involved in the BEST3 trial.”  

A COVID-response Cytosponge clinic 

The team recently received a grant to begin implementing the Cytosponge test, both in GPs and in secondary care across England in the coming years.  

But the onset of the coronavirus pandemic meant that plans were quickly adjusted. 

“COVID-19 means that endoscopy services were pretty much shut down,” Fitzgerald explains, “it means that there are people out there who just weren’t being referred, or who had been referred and were being stalled and not getting access to diagnostic tests.” 

The team received permission to begin procedures immediately, setting up a ‘COVID Cytosponge clinic’ at the Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge.  

“We were taking patients referred by the two week wait from their GP,” says Fitzgerald. “These are people who can still swallow capsules, who don’t sound quite so poorly, but otherwise would have had a delay in getting the endoscopy, who got the Cytosponge test.” 

This is a different way of using Cytosponge than had been tested in the previous trials, but analysing the data collected in this Addenbrooke’s pilot will help to find out if Cytosponge can play a useful role in working out who would benefit from an endoscopy the soonest.  

The Cytosponge test has reaffirmed the need to continue searching for innovative diagnostic tools, that detect pre-cancerous conditions quickly and non-invasively. One that can help save lives in today’s uncertain circumstances and into the future.   

5 October 2020 update: Cytosponge is being introduced in Scotland as a ‘simpler alternative to endoscopy’ in a £500,000 programme. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire will be the first to implement the test, with training planned for Fife, Borders, Forth Valley and Lothian later this month.

15 December 2020 update: The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence have developed a Medtech innovation briefing on ‘Cytosponge for detecting abnormal cells in the oesophagus’. The briefing aims to support NHS commissioners and staff who are considering implementation of Cytosponge into services. You can read the full briefing, here.  

8 July 2021 update: Scotland has announced that the Cytosponge device will now be used across all mainland Scottish health boards in the surveillance of people with Barrett’s Oesophagus. This reflects challenges in securing timely endoscopy for patients but also the interest in exploring the different ways in which Cytosponge could be used to shift patient care and outcomes. We’ll continue to monitor research and evaluation in this area with keen interest.

Lilly

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Reference

Fitzgerald RC, et al. (2020). ‘A pragmatic randomised, controlled trial of an offer of Cytosponge-TFF3 test compared with usual care to identify Barrett’s oesophagus in primary care.’ The Lancet. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31099-0


    Comments

  • jean jeffries
    10 March 2023

    ‘A simple but much needed method of checking for Oesophageal cancer , May help my son , who has had ‘reflux’ for some time.

  • Lyn Hacker
    28 February 2023

    Very interesting and clever.

  • Sally
    22 December 2020

    I wish this could have been around 20 years ago.my mother died of this horrible Cancer.
    The Dr said she was suffering from anxiety! ! As she was choking on her food..? It was a visit to the DENTIST that set alarms off and at last a biopsy..she died 3 months later..
    I cried when I read about this simple test that will save many lives.thank God for the team.

  • Lorna Leaston
    19 December 2020

    I was so pleased to read about this research, endoscopies can be so unpleasant & this seems such a fantastic innovation in the diagnosis of Barrett’s & in some cases early stage oesophageal cancer. As a survivor of late Stage 3 oesophageal cancer who had to have chemo, radiotherapy & an oesophagectomy, anything that detects it earlier and less invasively is clearly a game changer. CRUK do fantastic things & without the life saving research you do, so many of us would certainly not be here. Thank you!

  • Gwendoline O'Hehir
    10 December 2020

    I think what you are doing at cancer research is amazing and I would love to give thousand at this moment in time I can afford to donate £10.00 and hope the year 2021 will be much better.
    Thank you all for your hard work and consistent quest to find cures and save lives
    M

  • Harvey Phillips
    30 November 2020

    I have just been invited to have it as an alternative to regular, unpleasant gastroscopies. Can’t wait!

  • Dr Ronald Wrighton
    15 October 2020

    Very interesting to hear of this innovative approach to diagnosis of oesophageal issues.
    More please.

  • Christine Stanbury
    15 October 2020

    I find this all very interesting. My brother had Barrett’s diagnosed years ago. My Barretts 2cm 2016, 3cm sliding hiatus hernia 2013. Maybe Barrett’s all along. I always thought it a coincidence that both my brother and I had been diagnosed. Neither of us overweight and fit for our ages. Currently I have an endoscopy every three years. My brother had an operation in Kent possibly as early as 2005? Always keen to read any new information and concerned for our sons and their children.

  • Deanne Goddard
    14 October 2020

    very interesting; happy to learn what else is on the cutting edge

  • June Mcdonald
    15 September 2020

    There are so many different types of cancer, it must be a nightmare trying to concentrate on just a few. But cancer research are there at the forefront, thank you!

  • William
    15 September 2020

    So nice to hear positives, in the very present concerning period, is this method being considered for Colon and other cancers? such a simple very clever idea.

  • Veronica
    15 September 2020

    Wished this was done for my loved one. Was not even referred by GP although complained of Hoarseness in his voice on and off etc. He took himself to the hospital and got diagnosed

  • Susan
    14 September 2020

    This sounds great, my mother died of this cancer and her doctor didn’t take things seriously until she couldn’t swallow food( she had been going to the surgery for months complaining of heartburn) if this had been around in 2005 she may not have died.

  • Deborah Noonan
    30 August 2020

    I think the research scientists involved in this work and all work related to finding a cure for cancers are amazing: I think Cancer Research UK do a fantastic job despite not receiving Government funding. It makes you proud to be British.

  • Mike
    20 August 2020

    Having endured a number of endoscopies over the years (I was diagoned with Barrett’s oesophagus a number of years ago), I find this is an amazing innovation for detecting oesophagal cancer.. Because it is non-invasive and easy to carry out more people will feel confortable having this procedure done to an endoscopy which can carry a minor risk. I congratulate the research scientists who developed this technique.

  • Glenys
    20 August 2020

    That is fantastic progress in detecting oesophagal cancer

  • Patricia Deakin
    19 August 2020

    Amazing. Certainly made
    me more aware.

  • George Hudson
    19 August 2020

    Brilliant progress
    So user friendly

  • alan bunker
    17 August 2020

    marvellous.my son aged 22, died from this cancer after 4 months treatment.I was sitting by him in hospital when he passed away.however he had the type of cancer called Signet ring.is there a cure for this? Keep up your good work.THANKYOU

  • reply
    Katie Roberts
    18 August 2020

    Hi Alan,

    I’m really sorry to hear about what happened to your son. If you have any questions or want to talk things through it might be helpful to talk to one of our nurses on our helpline. The number is freephone 0808 800 4040 and the lines are open from 9am till 5pm Monday to Friday.

    Best wishes,

    Katie, Cancer Research UK

  • Annette
    17 August 2020

    Brilliant news, can you tell me please will this also be available in Scotland?

  • Gary Bickerton
    17 August 2020

    This sounds like a really positive step forward. I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer ,which had spread to my stomach , last September and endured months of chemo and major surgery , which was thankfully successful , so if this test can help people avoid that horrendous process then I am very pleased.

  • Joanne Tucker
    17 August 2020

    I agree with all the responses below, this needs to be out there for all asap

  • Barbara Reardon
    17 August 2020

    I think this is brilliant my mother died of oesophageal cancer 10 years ago and I suffer from acid reflux and have done for many years, hope it soon becomes standard practice.

  • Skye van Heyzen
    17 August 2020

    What a brilliant development. After suffering from reflux for years I got subjected to a few endoscopies of which some were actually quite traumatic with the anaesthetic not working. Subsequently was diagnosed with minor Barrett’s and a lazy bottom oesophagus, with the delightful news of endoscopy screening required every 5 years. I only hope that this becomes common practice and that I can get screened using this method sooner rather than later,

  • Penny Scott-Beaulieu
    17 August 2020

    Wonderful news. This is why I give to Cancer Research. Just hope that GPs use this tool as standard. ( I spent several years being treated for acid reflux before finally being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and undergoing surgery and chemotherapy- but thanks to our wonderful nhs am still here 20 years later.)

  • Marcia Panton
    16 August 2020

    Fantastic willing this can be used throughout the uk health service.
    Keep up the good work

  • Grace Needham
    16 August 2020

    I would be interesting in knowIng if the “sponge on a string’ will be used for used for Barrett’s surveillance patients instead of the 3 yearly endoscopes.

  • Jacqueline Newby
    16 August 2020

    I find this particularly interesting as my brother died of oesophageal cancer when he was 54 almost 20 years ago.

  • Maria Parkes
    16 August 2020

    Amazing idea to detect esophageal cancer
    Well done

  • pat kwing
    16 August 2020

    It is wonderful and uplifting to hear and read about these results and the hard work that has led to these discoveries.

  • Victoria Watt
    16 August 2020

    The test is brilliant ,in it’s simplicity , and ease of use , more people will get tested because of this ; and get their treatment earlier and hopefully survive to tell their tale .
    Well Done !

  • Janet Brandon-King [Mrs]
    16 August 2020

    I have been on bi-annual endoscopy tests for about 10 years. Is it possible to switch to the cytosponge system? It sounds so much better all round – less cost for the NHS and less invasive for the patient

  • Roy Brown
    16 August 2020

    I am very impressed to read of your above breakthrough.
    I have a dear friend who suffers from acid reflux
    and have passed this exciting article onto her.

  • Lois Gillard
    16 August 2020

    This is amazing news I would have benefited from this about 4 years ago as have recovered from cancer where they found it after I couldn’t swallow it would have possibly saved me from painful and traumatic treatment I am however extremely grateful to be here cancer free and that’s down to the fantastic team and their expertise

  • Michael Brady
    16 August 2020

    That’s a great opportunity for mankind and womankind, as my mother died of this,keep up the good work.

  • Dianne Docherty
    16 August 2020

    This has been very interesting to read, I know I have Barrets oesophageal and was wondering if this trial would benefit people like me? .

  • Vicky Sellars
    16 August 2020

    When will this test become widely available? I suffer really badly with GERD and my dad is recovering from Oesophageal cancer, hence my reason for asking.

  • reply
    Lilly Matson
    25 August 2020

    Dear Vicky,

    Thank you for your question.

    We don’t yet know exactly when the Cytosponge test will be routinely available at GP surgeries because more research still needs to be done, but we hope this will be as soon as possible. The test is currently being piloted around the country and researchers are measuring the costs and how effective it is. They estimate that it will be rolled out within 3 to 5 years.

    Best wishes,

    Lilly, Cancer Research UK

  • Christine StJean
    16 August 2020

    I think this is a brilliant idea that will save lives

  • Michelle Swift
    16 August 2020

    Can I get this done, I have had heartburn and other gastro probs for years, I live in Rotherham

  • JANET HICKS
    16 August 2020

    BRILLIANT IDEA.

  • Carol Smith
    16 August 2020

    This sponge technique is so amazing. I wish it had been available when my grandmother was alive. This may have detected her cancer and saved her life. Hope for the future!!

  • JUDITH KASOWE
    15 August 2020

    Thanks for the work you are doing

  • Ioana
    15 August 2020

    Would be a blessing for so many people and their family.Pls don’t stop,keep doing it because is worthy

  • Christine Clifton
    15 August 2020

    Absolutely brilliant loved to be able to read

  • Harry Smith
    15 August 2020

    I’ve had Barrett’s for years and have a endoscopy every 2yrs but this sounds an excellent step forward. how soon will it be in General practice?

  • reply
    Lilly Matson
    25 August 2020

    Dear Harry,

    Although we don’t know exactly when the Cytosponge test will be routinely available at GP surgeries, as more research still needs to be done, we do hope this will be as soon as possible. Right now, the test is being piloted around the country and researchers are measuring the costs and how effective it is. They estimate that it will be made available within 3 to 5 years.

    Best wishes,

    Lilly, Cancer Research UK

  • Eileen Weston
    15 August 2020

    I wish my husband could have this test done he’s suffered with reflux for years and is prescribed emoprazole he’s always getting food stuck and has to make himself vomit to clear it . I worry all the time for him

  • Katherine Eno
    15 August 2020

    Really interesting research and great results.

  • Madonna Stewart
    15 August 2020

    Wow that’s incredible xx

  • Christine Colborne
    15 August 2020

    How can I get tested this way?
    I have had herd and acid stomach symptoms for years and during lockdown my symptoms have returned big time. My surgery is running in Locums and it’s not easy to get an appointment.
    I only mentioned to my husband this morning that I was concerned especially as I don’t have a big appetite these days and feel quite tired plus a cough and sore throat

  • Graham Wharton
    15 August 2020

    Really interesting and informative article, I do hope Cancer Research is able to get fully back on track soon, Your work is priceless

  • Margaret Rayner 15.8.20
    15 August 2020

    I volunteered for the test after being asked to take part by my GP. I do have Reflux and benign polyps and was glad to take part .lts a simple test which is not unduly unpleasant

  • David Dennett
    15 August 2020

    Fantastic research & an article easy to understand. Sad to hear you have had to reduce staff & we would be prepared to increase our modest quarterly donation. Will be in touch Monday . Keep up good work.Kind regards

  • Susan Galbraith
    15 August 2020

    Definitely a good idea my husband passed away with this cancer.

  • Dr SYLVIA JONES
    15 August 2020

    This is wonderful . The bottle brush is now famous as the innovation behind the sponge. Brilliant

  • Anne Johnson
    15 August 2020

    very good news. Carry on the good work-every little bit helps

  • Christine Higgs
    15 August 2020

    This is interesting to me as I suffer with heartburn and have been taking medication for some years without having an endoscopy, it makes you wonder if it should be mandatory to have a test to make sure there are no other problems!

  • Sue Oxkaya
    15 August 2020

    Amazing work by cancer uk I wish with all my heart I was able to donate more but my budget is very tight so I donate what I can. Thank you for the amazing work you continue to do.

  • B hall
    15 August 2020

    Absolutely brilliant and a reason we all need to support research.

  • Mrs Vera Wren
    14 August 2020

    Very interesting, anything for early detection is wonderful, and not having radiotherapy chemotherapy,is a big plus. I had esophagus cancer in 2012, and was offered surgery or chemo ‘radio’, I chose the latter, and am here to tell the story, and feel very lucky to be here aged nearing 84.

  • Margaret Jewison
    14 August 2020

    I found this article extremely interesting as I have Barret’s oesophagus.

    Last year, 2019, I had 8 endoscopies. This year I had one delayed for 3 months because of Covid 19. I have now had that endoscopy, received the result over the telephone – plus confirmation in the post- and 4 weeks later am still awaiting an appointment for my treatment.
    Obviously, I shall be having to endure more endoscopies in the future and this new procedure sounds very interesting to me. I shall be asking my surgeon questions when my appointment comes through and also my consultant the next time I see him.

  • Hendry McDonald
    14 August 2020

    I have Barrett’s about 8years and vocal cord cancer but have never heard of this procedure.

  • David John Collins
    14 August 2020

    Excellent how can I be tested and where? I have acid reflux &copd I’m 64

  • reply
    Lilly Matson
    25 August 2020

    Dear David,

    Thank you for your question.

    We don’t yet know exactly when the Cytosponge test will be routinely available at GP surgeries because more research is still being carried out, but we hope this will be as soon as possible. The test is currently being piloted around the country and researchers are measuring the costs and how effective it is. They estimate that it will be rolled out in GP surgeries within 3 to 5 years.

    Best wishes,

    Lilly, Cancer Research UK

  • Clare Hatfield -Grove
    14 August 2020

    This is amazing and ESSENTIAL in my opinion to be used routinely just as a Smear and PSA and Bowel cancer testing . In my job in the Funeral Industry the amount of oesophageal Cancer causing death due to late diagnosis is memorable and above other causes of cancer death … and a cause very close to my heart as my 20 year old nephew was diagnosed a year ago With HER2+ and luckily was put on a trial at UCLH and now is being tested to join a trial with Dr Smyth at Addenbrooks Cambridge which we are so grateful for. This test at first symptom of acid reflux or IBS type feelings will save lives.

  • Catherine O'Brien
    14 August 2020

    Fantastic news !

  • Teresa Hooper
    14 August 2020

    Excellent idea. Much less invasive than gastroscopy. This is what is putting me off having investigations for reflux. But if I could have this test I would. Please could you tell me how I could get it done.

  • Mrs Lyn Neal
    14 August 2020

    What a great invention! My father unfortunately died from this condition.

  • Linda Lyons
    14 August 2020

    Brilliant test.I had oesophagael cancer and at the beginning just thought it was indigestion.Touch wood I had a brilliant surgeon after going through chemo and radiotheraphy…Hope this test can help to save lifes…

  • Diane Bate
    14 August 2020

    Well done Cancer Research. Amazing, something so simple can be used to identify oesophageal changes before it has progressed to a more serious outcome. When will this be widely available?

  • reply
    Lilly Matson
    25 August 2020

    Dear Diane,

    Thank you for your question.

    We don’t yet know exactly when the Cytosponge test will be widely available at GP surgeries because more research still needs to be done, but we hope this will be as soon as possible. The Cytosponge test is currently being piloted around the country and researchers are measuring the costs and how effective it is. They estimate that it will be made routinely available within 3 to 5 years.

    Best wishes,

    Lilly, Cancer Research UK

  • Pauline Doyle
    14 August 2020

    yes i think it’s a wonderful idea i would love to have it done as i suffer alot with acid reflux.

  • Nellie Adjaye
    14 August 2020

    Brilliant piece of innovative work

  • Cath Lamont
    14 August 2020

    Fantastic step forward! My dad died from this so I’m pleased there’s a quicker way to diagnose for others.

  • Elaine McDermott
    14 August 2020

    I think this is amazing news!! I lost my fabulous husband 2017, 52yrs old, to this terrible disease. I hope this saves many people from the heart ache, invasive surgery, chemotherapy, uncertainty and anguish. Well done Cancer Research Team

  • frances reynolds
    14 August 2020

    sounds good to me I get acid all the time, years ago I was treated for ,healer bactor pylori I take the quardium pill every day if i miss for more than two days the acid is back . Would love to have this test.

  • Charlotte Taylor
    14 August 2020

    This is brilliant news, I have had Breast Cancer, & have acid reflux, after having a sore throat for several months I saw my GP & was referred for an MRI scan of my throat & neck. The results said nothing sinister! But the sore throat is continuous & I know have to have a nasal endoscopy? This Cytosponge sounds amazing, why are GP’s nog using this?? I have previously had an Oesophageal Endoscopy &it was horrible!!

  • Margaret Cartwright
    14 August 2020

    This is wonderful news,my husband died from oesophagus cancer.I have had 3 operation on my oesophagus the lower part was so inflamed my surgeon had to remove part of it. I have never smoked .I suffer terrible with reflux I take ranitidine and omeprazole 3 times a day I would love to try the ”sponge”.well done Cancer Research

  • Anne A H Murrell
    14 August 2020

    How wonderful to hear of such positive results coming from the research into oesophageal cancer. My husband died of this disease, and I have a hiatus hernia and sometimes difficulty in swallowing when eating a meal. My doctor has prescribed Omeprazole for such a long period, and a day without that medication leaves me with severe heartburn. I would love the opportunity to have the ‘sponge’ test – before it is too late and I find there are serious consequences due to delay of appropriate treatment. Well done Cancer Research UK!

  • Dee Bell
    14 August 2020

    Wonderful! What a brilliant idea! But when will this procedure be done in Wales? Having endured several endoscopies, I would much rather swallow the pill/sponge for earlier diagnosis. Well done everyone!

  • Janet Hardacre
    14 August 2020

    This trial for oesophageal cancer is such great news for sufferers of a reflux condition where positive outcomes are now possible. Thank you Cancer research for your continuing curiosity into finding ways to beat & treat all forms of cancer.

  • Harry Downham-Clarke
    14 August 2020

    The sponge on string sounds to be a great idea.

  • Gowen
    14 August 2020

    Absolutely incredible but straightforward and simple idea- well done and thank you all :))

  • Jacqueline Kerr
    13 August 2020

    Wish my husband who passed with this awful cancer could have had this done. You get a terminal illness and he couldn’t even eat latterly, so that great pleasure went from his life too. I am glad some in roads are being made with this type of cancer. I miss him every day. Jackiexx

  • Lucy Simpson
    13 August 2020

    This sounds marvellous. I have been told that I have Barrett’s then told I probably haven’t. My grandmother died of oesophageal cancer. Please roll it out quickly and do contact me if trials continue.

  • Margaret Pidge
    13 August 2020

    Sounds a really good idea. I had a hiatus hernia opp last year because of very bad reflux and acid I am no better and still on the same medication.

  • Christine Brown
    13 August 2020

    I think this is fantastic, a wonderful development. Congratulations to the Cancer Research Team.

  • Jean Lindsay
    13 August 2020

    I have suffered from silent reflux for about 5 years, I do worry about getting oesophageal cancer. I have had a gastroscopy which I found quite traumatic so would welcome something like this

  • John Wells
    13 August 2020

    excellent to hear of progress on one of the more difficult cancers

  • Margaret Mc Greevy
    13 August 2020

    I think this is an amazing trail

  • Margaret Mc Greevy
    13 August 2020

    I would like to participate in the trail

  • Christine
    13 August 2020

    Excellent news. My husband died of oesophageal cancer in 2002 aged 48 a year after being diagnosed and quite extensive surgery and chemotherapy. So I am happy to hear that this test will now diagnose early and may prevent invasive surgery.

  • Kate
    13 August 2020

    This was very interesting as I have Barratts Osephagus and would much prefer to swallow a pill rather than have another endoscopy !

  • Andrea Cawood
    13 August 2020

    Fantastic, I would be interested in having the test as I have taken omeprazole for acid reflux for years and am always worried about oesophageal cancer. My aunt and a friend died of it as it was not diagnosed early.

  • Claire williams
    12 August 2020

    Very interesting article. Oesphageal cancer is always often found too late. But why should random people receive the test, ideally some kind of screening tool at say a certain age for everyone would be ideal, like the bowel screening programme or cervical screeing programme. Oesphageal cancer is treatable and curable if caught in early stages but rarely is and from personal experience it is classed as death sentence with no hope because of the late stage at which it is diagnosed in many cases. A tool like for everyone could save lives.

    Comments

  • jean jeffries
    10 March 2023

    ‘A simple but much needed method of checking for Oesophageal cancer , May help my son , who has had ‘reflux’ for some time.

  • Lyn Hacker
    28 February 2023

    Very interesting and clever.

  • Sally
    22 December 2020

    I wish this could have been around 20 years ago.my mother died of this horrible Cancer.
    The Dr said she was suffering from anxiety! ! As she was choking on her food..? It was a visit to the DENTIST that set alarms off and at last a biopsy..she died 3 months later..
    I cried when I read about this simple test that will save many lives.thank God for the team.

  • Lorna Leaston
    19 December 2020

    I was so pleased to read about this research, endoscopies can be so unpleasant & this seems such a fantastic innovation in the diagnosis of Barrett’s & in some cases early stage oesophageal cancer. As a survivor of late Stage 3 oesophageal cancer who had to have chemo, radiotherapy & an oesophagectomy, anything that detects it earlier and less invasively is clearly a game changer. CRUK do fantastic things & without the life saving research you do, so many of us would certainly not be here. Thank you!

  • Gwendoline O'Hehir
    10 December 2020

    I think what you are doing at cancer research is amazing and I would love to give thousand at this moment in time I can afford to donate £10.00 and hope the year 2021 will be much better.
    Thank you all for your hard work and consistent quest to find cures and save lives
    M

  • Harvey Phillips
    30 November 2020

    I have just been invited to have it as an alternative to regular, unpleasant gastroscopies. Can’t wait!

  • Dr Ronald Wrighton
    15 October 2020

    Very interesting to hear of this innovative approach to diagnosis of oesophageal issues.
    More please.

  • Christine Stanbury
    15 October 2020

    I find this all very interesting. My brother had Barrett’s diagnosed years ago. My Barretts 2cm 2016, 3cm sliding hiatus hernia 2013. Maybe Barrett’s all along. I always thought it a coincidence that both my brother and I had been diagnosed. Neither of us overweight and fit for our ages. Currently I have an endoscopy every three years. My brother had an operation in Kent possibly as early as 2005? Always keen to read any new information and concerned for our sons and their children.

  • Deanne Goddard
    14 October 2020

    very interesting; happy to learn what else is on the cutting edge

  • June Mcdonald
    15 September 2020

    There are so many different types of cancer, it must be a nightmare trying to concentrate on just a few. But cancer research are there at the forefront, thank you!

  • William
    15 September 2020

    So nice to hear positives, in the very present concerning period, is this method being considered for Colon and other cancers? such a simple very clever idea.

  • Veronica
    15 September 2020

    Wished this was done for my loved one. Was not even referred by GP although complained of Hoarseness in his voice on and off etc. He took himself to the hospital and got diagnosed

  • Susan
    14 September 2020

    This sounds great, my mother died of this cancer and her doctor didn’t take things seriously until she couldn’t swallow food( she had been going to the surgery for months complaining of heartburn) if this had been around in 2005 she may not have died.

  • Deborah Noonan
    30 August 2020

    I think the research scientists involved in this work and all work related to finding a cure for cancers are amazing: I think Cancer Research UK do a fantastic job despite not receiving Government funding. It makes you proud to be British.

  • Mike
    20 August 2020

    Having endured a number of endoscopies over the years (I was diagoned with Barrett’s oesophagus a number of years ago), I find this is an amazing innovation for detecting oesophagal cancer.. Because it is non-invasive and easy to carry out more people will feel confortable having this procedure done to an endoscopy which can carry a minor risk. I congratulate the research scientists who developed this technique.

  • Glenys
    20 August 2020

    That is fantastic progress in detecting oesophagal cancer

  • Patricia Deakin
    19 August 2020

    Amazing. Certainly made
    me more aware.

  • George Hudson
    19 August 2020

    Brilliant progress
    So user friendly

  • alan bunker
    17 August 2020

    marvellous.my son aged 22, died from this cancer after 4 months treatment.I was sitting by him in hospital when he passed away.however he had the type of cancer called Signet ring.is there a cure for this? Keep up your good work.THANKYOU

  • reply
    Katie Roberts
    18 August 2020

    Hi Alan,

    I’m really sorry to hear about what happened to your son. If you have any questions or want to talk things through it might be helpful to talk to one of our nurses on our helpline. The number is freephone 0808 800 4040 and the lines are open from 9am till 5pm Monday to Friday.

    Best wishes,

    Katie, Cancer Research UK

  • Annette
    17 August 2020

    Brilliant news, can you tell me please will this also be available in Scotland?

  • Gary Bickerton
    17 August 2020

    This sounds like a really positive step forward. I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer ,which had spread to my stomach , last September and endured months of chemo and major surgery , which was thankfully successful , so if this test can help people avoid that horrendous process then I am very pleased.

  • Joanne Tucker
    17 August 2020

    I agree with all the responses below, this needs to be out there for all asap

  • Barbara Reardon
    17 August 2020

    I think this is brilliant my mother died of oesophageal cancer 10 years ago and I suffer from acid reflux and have done for many years, hope it soon becomes standard practice.

  • Skye van Heyzen
    17 August 2020

    What a brilliant development. After suffering from reflux for years I got subjected to a few endoscopies of which some were actually quite traumatic with the anaesthetic not working. Subsequently was diagnosed with minor Barrett’s and a lazy bottom oesophagus, with the delightful news of endoscopy screening required every 5 years. I only hope that this becomes common practice and that I can get screened using this method sooner rather than later,

  • Penny Scott-Beaulieu
    17 August 2020

    Wonderful news. This is why I give to Cancer Research. Just hope that GPs use this tool as standard. ( I spent several years being treated for acid reflux before finally being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and undergoing surgery and chemotherapy- but thanks to our wonderful nhs am still here 20 years later.)

  • Marcia Panton
    16 August 2020

    Fantastic willing this can be used throughout the uk health service.
    Keep up the good work

  • Grace Needham
    16 August 2020

    I would be interesting in knowIng if the “sponge on a string’ will be used for used for Barrett’s surveillance patients instead of the 3 yearly endoscopes.

  • Jacqueline Newby
    16 August 2020

    I find this particularly interesting as my brother died of oesophageal cancer when he was 54 almost 20 years ago.

  • Maria Parkes
    16 August 2020

    Amazing idea to detect esophageal cancer
    Well done

  • pat kwing
    16 August 2020

    It is wonderful and uplifting to hear and read about these results and the hard work that has led to these discoveries.

  • Victoria Watt
    16 August 2020

    The test is brilliant ,in it’s simplicity , and ease of use , more people will get tested because of this ; and get their treatment earlier and hopefully survive to tell their tale .
    Well Done !

  • Janet Brandon-King [Mrs]
    16 August 2020

    I have been on bi-annual endoscopy tests for about 10 years. Is it possible to switch to the cytosponge system? It sounds so much better all round – less cost for the NHS and less invasive for the patient

  • Roy Brown
    16 August 2020

    I am very impressed to read of your above breakthrough.
    I have a dear friend who suffers from acid reflux
    and have passed this exciting article onto her.

  • Lois Gillard
    16 August 2020

    This is amazing news I would have benefited from this about 4 years ago as have recovered from cancer where they found it after I couldn’t swallow it would have possibly saved me from painful and traumatic treatment I am however extremely grateful to be here cancer free and that’s down to the fantastic team and their expertise

  • Michael Brady
    16 August 2020

    That’s a great opportunity for mankind and womankind, as my mother died of this,keep up the good work.

  • Dianne Docherty
    16 August 2020

    This has been very interesting to read, I know I have Barrets oesophageal and was wondering if this trial would benefit people like me? .

  • Vicky Sellars
    16 August 2020

    When will this test become widely available? I suffer really badly with GERD and my dad is recovering from Oesophageal cancer, hence my reason for asking.

  • reply
    Lilly Matson
    25 August 2020

    Dear Vicky,

    Thank you for your question.

    We don’t yet know exactly when the Cytosponge test will be routinely available at GP surgeries because more research still needs to be done, but we hope this will be as soon as possible. The test is currently being piloted around the country and researchers are measuring the costs and how effective it is. They estimate that it will be rolled out within 3 to 5 years.

    Best wishes,

    Lilly, Cancer Research UK

  • Christine StJean
    16 August 2020

    I think this is a brilliant idea that will save lives

  • Michelle Swift
    16 August 2020

    Can I get this done, I have had heartburn and other gastro probs for years, I live in Rotherham

  • JANET HICKS
    16 August 2020

    BRILLIANT IDEA.

  • Carol Smith
    16 August 2020

    This sponge technique is so amazing. I wish it had been available when my grandmother was alive. This may have detected her cancer and saved her life. Hope for the future!!

  • JUDITH KASOWE
    15 August 2020

    Thanks for the work you are doing

  • Ioana
    15 August 2020

    Would be a blessing for so many people and their family.Pls don’t stop,keep doing it because is worthy

  • Christine Clifton
    15 August 2020

    Absolutely brilliant loved to be able to read

  • Harry Smith
    15 August 2020

    I’ve had Barrett’s for years and have a endoscopy every 2yrs but this sounds an excellent step forward. how soon will it be in General practice?

  • reply
    Lilly Matson
    25 August 2020

    Dear Harry,

    Although we don’t know exactly when the Cytosponge test will be routinely available at GP surgeries, as more research still needs to be done, we do hope this will be as soon as possible. Right now, the test is being piloted around the country and researchers are measuring the costs and how effective it is. They estimate that it will be made available within 3 to 5 years.

    Best wishes,

    Lilly, Cancer Research UK

  • Eileen Weston
    15 August 2020

    I wish my husband could have this test done he’s suffered with reflux for years and is prescribed emoprazole he’s always getting food stuck and has to make himself vomit to clear it . I worry all the time for him

  • Katherine Eno
    15 August 2020

    Really interesting research and great results.

  • Madonna Stewart
    15 August 2020

    Wow that’s incredible xx

  • Christine Colborne
    15 August 2020

    How can I get tested this way?
    I have had herd and acid stomach symptoms for years and during lockdown my symptoms have returned big time. My surgery is running in Locums and it’s not easy to get an appointment.
    I only mentioned to my husband this morning that I was concerned especially as I don’t have a big appetite these days and feel quite tired plus a cough and sore throat

  • Graham Wharton
    15 August 2020

    Really interesting and informative article, I do hope Cancer Research is able to get fully back on track soon, Your work is priceless

  • Margaret Rayner 15.8.20
    15 August 2020

    I volunteered for the test after being asked to take part by my GP. I do have Reflux and benign polyps and was glad to take part .lts a simple test which is not unduly unpleasant

  • David Dennett
    15 August 2020

    Fantastic research & an article easy to understand. Sad to hear you have had to reduce staff & we would be prepared to increase our modest quarterly donation. Will be in touch Monday . Keep up good work.Kind regards

  • Susan Galbraith
    15 August 2020

    Definitely a good idea my husband passed away with this cancer.

  • Dr SYLVIA JONES
    15 August 2020

    This is wonderful . The bottle brush is now famous as the innovation behind the sponge. Brilliant

  • Anne Johnson
    15 August 2020

    very good news. Carry on the good work-every little bit helps

  • Christine Higgs
    15 August 2020

    This is interesting to me as I suffer with heartburn and have been taking medication for some years without having an endoscopy, it makes you wonder if it should be mandatory to have a test to make sure there are no other problems!

  • Sue Oxkaya
    15 August 2020

    Amazing work by cancer uk I wish with all my heart I was able to donate more but my budget is very tight so I donate what I can. Thank you for the amazing work you continue to do.

  • B hall
    15 August 2020

    Absolutely brilliant and a reason we all need to support research.

  • Mrs Vera Wren
    14 August 2020

    Very interesting, anything for early detection is wonderful, and not having radiotherapy chemotherapy,is a big plus. I had esophagus cancer in 2012, and was offered surgery or chemo ‘radio’, I chose the latter, and am here to tell the story, and feel very lucky to be here aged nearing 84.

  • Margaret Jewison
    14 August 2020

    I found this article extremely interesting as I have Barret’s oesophagus.

    Last year, 2019, I had 8 endoscopies. This year I had one delayed for 3 months because of Covid 19. I have now had that endoscopy, received the result over the telephone – plus confirmation in the post- and 4 weeks later am still awaiting an appointment for my treatment.
    Obviously, I shall be having to endure more endoscopies in the future and this new procedure sounds very interesting to me. I shall be asking my surgeon questions when my appointment comes through and also my consultant the next time I see him.

  • Hendry McDonald
    14 August 2020

    I have Barrett’s about 8years and vocal cord cancer but have never heard of this procedure.

  • David John Collins
    14 August 2020

    Excellent how can I be tested and where? I have acid reflux &copd I’m 64

  • reply
    Lilly Matson
    25 August 2020

    Dear David,

    Thank you for your question.

    We don’t yet know exactly when the Cytosponge test will be routinely available at GP surgeries because more research is still being carried out, but we hope this will be as soon as possible. The test is currently being piloted around the country and researchers are measuring the costs and how effective it is. They estimate that it will be rolled out in GP surgeries within 3 to 5 years.

    Best wishes,

    Lilly, Cancer Research UK

  • Clare Hatfield -Grove
    14 August 2020

    This is amazing and ESSENTIAL in my opinion to be used routinely just as a Smear and PSA and Bowel cancer testing . In my job in the Funeral Industry the amount of oesophageal Cancer causing death due to late diagnosis is memorable and above other causes of cancer death … and a cause very close to my heart as my 20 year old nephew was diagnosed a year ago With HER2+ and luckily was put on a trial at UCLH and now is being tested to join a trial with Dr Smyth at Addenbrooks Cambridge which we are so grateful for. This test at first symptom of acid reflux or IBS type feelings will save lives.

  • Catherine O'Brien
    14 August 2020

    Fantastic news !

  • Teresa Hooper
    14 August 2020

    Excellent idea. Much less invasive than gastroscopy. This is what is putting me off having investigations for reflux. But if I could have this test I would. Please could you tell me how I could get it done.

  • Mrs Lyn Neal
    14 August 2020

    What a great invention! My father unfortunately died from this condition.

  • Linda Lyons
    14 August 2020

    Brilliant test.I had oesophagael cancer and at the beginning just thought it was indigestion.Touch wood I had a brilliant surgeon after going through chemo and radiotheraphy…Hope this test can help to save lifes…

  • Diane Bate
    14 August 2020

    Well done Cancer Research. Amazing, something so simple can be used to identify oesophageal changes before it has progressed to a more serious outcome. When will this be widely available?

  • reply
    Lilly Matson
    25 August 2020

    Dear Diane,

    Thank you for your question.

    We don’t yet know exactly when the Cytosponge test will be widely available at GP surgeries because more research still needs to be done, but we hope this will be as soon as possible. The Cytosponge test is currently being piloted around the country and researchers are measuring the costs and how effective it is. They estimate that it will be made routinely available within 3 to 5 years.

    Best wishes,

    Lilly, Cancer Research UK

  • Pauline Doyle
    14 August 2020

    yes i think it’s a wonderful idea i would love to have it done as i suffer alot with acid reflux.

  • Nellie Adjaye
    14 August 2020

    Brilliant piece of innovative work

  • Cath Lamont
    14 August 2020

    Fantastic step forward! My dad died from this so I’m pleased there’s a quicker way to diagnose for others.

  • Elaine McDermott
    14 August 2020

    I think this is amazing news!! I lost my fabulous husband 2017, 52yrs old, to this terrible disease. I hope this saves many people from the heart ache, invasive surgery, chemotherapy, uncertainty and anguish. Well done Cancer Research Team

  • frances reynolds
    14 August 2020

    sounds good to me I get acid all the time, years ago I was treated for ,healer bactor pylori I take the quardium pill every day if i miss for more than two days the acid is back . Would love to have this test.

  • Charlotte Taylor
    14 August 2020

    This is brilliant news, I have had Breast Cancer, & have acid reflux, after having a sore throat for several months I saw my GP & was referred for an MRI scan of my throat & neck. The results said nothing sinister! But the sore throat is continuous & I know have to have a nasal endoscopy? This Cytosponge sounds amazing, why are GP’s nog using this?? I have previously had an Oesophageal Endoscopy &it was horrible!!

  • Margaret Cartwright
    14 August 2020

    This is wonderful news,my husband died from oesophagus cancer.I have had 3 operation on my oesophagus the lower part was so inflamed my surgeon had to remove part of it. I have never smoked .I suffer terrible with reflux I take ranitidine and omeprazole 3 times a day I would love to try the ”sponge”.well done Cancer Research

  • Anne A H Murrell
    14 August 2020

    How wonderful to hear of such positive results coming from the research into oesophageal cancer. My husband died of this disease, and I have a hiatus hernia and sometimes difficulty in swallowing when eating a meal. My doctor has prescribed Omeprazole for such a long period, and a day without that medication leaves me with severe heartburn. I would love the opportunity to have the ‘sponge’ test – before it is too late and I find there are serious consequences due to delay of appropriate treatment. Well done Cancer Research UK!

  • Dee Bell
    14 August 2020

    Wonderful! What a brilliant idea! But when will this procedure be done in Wales? Having endured several endoscopies, I would much rather swallow the pill/sponge for earlier diagnosis. Well done everyone!

  • Janet Hardacre
    14 August 2020

    This trial for oesophageal cancer is such great news for sufferers of a reflux condition where positive outcomes are now possible. Thank you Cancer research for your continuing curiosity into finding ways to beat & treat all forms of cancer.

  • Harry Downham-Clarke
    14 August 2020

    The sponge on string sounds to be a great idea.

  • Gowen
    14 August 2020

    Absolutely incredible but straightforward and simple idea- well done and thank you all :))

  • Jacqueline Kerr
    13 August 2020

    Wish my husband who passed with this awful cancer could have had this done. You get a terminal illness and he couldn’t even eat latterly, so that great pleasure went from his life too. I am glad some in roads are being made with this type of cancer. I miss him every day. Jackiexx

  • Lucy Simpson
    13 August 2020

    This sounds marvellous. I have been told that I have Barrett’s then told I probably haven’t. My grandmother died of oesophageal cancer. Please roll it out quickly and do contact me if trials continue.

  • Margaret Pidge
    13 August 2020

    Sounds a really good idea. I had a hiatus hernia opp last year because of very bad reflux and acid I am no better and still on the same medication.

  • Christine Brown
    13 August 2020

    I think this is fantastic, a wonderful development. Congratulations to the Cancer Research Team.

  • Jean Lindsay
    13 August 2020

    I have suffered from silent reflux for about 5 years, I do worry about getting oesophageal cancer. I have had a gastroscopy which I found quite traumatic so would welcome something like this

  • John Wells
    13 August 2020

    excellent to hear of progress on one of the more difficult cancers

  • Margaret Mc Greevy
    13 August 2020

    I think this is an amazing trail

  • Margaret Mc Greevy
    13 August 2020

    I would like to participate in the trail

  • Christine
    13 August 2020

    Excellent news. My husband died of oesophageal cancer in 2002 aged 48 a year after being diagnosed and quite extensive surgery and chemotherapy. So I am happy to hear that this test will now diagnose early and may prevent invasive surgery.

  • Kate
    13 August 2020

    This was very interesting as I have Barratts Osephagus and would much prefer to swallow a pill rather than have another endoscopy !

  • Andrea Cawood
    13 August 2020

    Fantastic, I would be interested in having the test as I have taken omeprazole for acid reflux for years and am always worried about oesophageal cancer. My aunt and a friend died of it as it was not diagnosed early.

  • Claire williams
    12 August 2020

    Very interesting article. Oesphageal cancer is always often found too late. But why should random people receive the test, ideally some kind of screening tool at say a certain age for everyone would be ideal, like the bowel screening programme or cervical screeing programme. Oesphageal cancer is treatable and curable if caught in early stages but rarely is and from personal experience it is classed as death sentence with no hope because of the late stage at which it is diagnosed in many cases. A tool like for everyone could save lives.