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Wednesday 26th June 2019

Innovation prize for cancer test

6th June 2011

A new way of testing for oesophageal cancer has been awarded a £50,000 prize as part of the Department of Health's prizes for innovation.


The Cytosponge was awarded second place in the awards. It costs £25, far cheaper than the £600 it takes to perform an endosocopy (the standard test for the cancer).

The sponge was developed by Dr Rebecca Fitzgerald and her team at the Cambridge Medical Research Council Cancer Unit at Addenbrookes University Hospital.

The Cytosponge method involves a sponge inside a pill which a patient swallows, which is connected to a piece of thin medical string.

After the pill has dissolved, the sponge is taken out of the oesophagus and collects cells on its way back up.

The cells are then able to undergo testing for Barrett's Oesophagus, which is a condition which increases the danger of tumours.

If the test finds early stage cancer then patients can undergo treatment via endoscopy, which is far cheaper than an operation.

Health Minister Simon Burns said: "We need to support innovation in the NHS, not suffocate it. In every hospital, GP practice and clinic we need to ensure innovation can flourish by supporting clinicians to develop new ways of thinking and delivering care to benefit patients and the NHS.

"At a time of significant economic challenge, innovation is essential to help the NHS modernise by improving the quality of care for patients whilst at the same time delivering more for less."


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