We are absolutely thrilled here at Heartburn Cancer UK to be able to tell you about our new project, a partnership with research consortium DELTA that has the potential to make huge advances in the care of those with persistent heartburn, those taking PPIs and the diagnosis of Barrett’s oesophagus and oesophageal cancer.

As many of you will be aware, diagnosis of Barrett’s oesophagus and oesophageal cancer is currently only possible via a hospital based procedure called endoscopy, which is invasive and difficult to perform in a COVID-19 safe manner.   Many of those we have had contact with over the past months have personal experience of the delays in screening that the pandemic has caused, further compounding the concerns that already exist surrounding late diagnosis. 

A Cytosponge device

Our new project introduces an innovative and exciting alternative to endoscopy, The Cytosponge, a screening test designed for use in a community setting such as a GP surgery or nurse-led clinic.

The Cytosponge (see image) is a small capsule on a string which is swallowed by a patient.  It expands in the stomach to form a sponge and is then removed a few minutes later, collecting cells from the inner lining of the oesophagus.  The test has been developed at the University of Cambridge and has been rigorously tested and shown to be safe and acceptable to thousands of patients. 

Although use of The Cytosponge has been recommended to government by the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, it’s introduction to primary care has been on hold due to changes that prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

We are delighted to announce that during 2021 Heartburn Cancer UK, together with our partner, Project DELTA, will facilitate this essential pilot.  HCUK are making the progress of the pilot possible with the purchase of a specialist mobile diagnostic unit and intend to establish a long-term mobile diagnostic service.  The project will pilot the unit in three different locations starting in Cambridgeshire with the next two pilot areas to be confirmed soon.  We hope to develop the mobile screening service to a much wider area.

Available evidence suggests that appropriate use of the Cytosponge could reduce rates of oesophageal cancer by up to 50% and that NHS cost savings of 50% could be made in comparison to screening using endoscopy.

This project represents a huge step forward for the care of all those living with Barrett’s oesophagus, oesophageal cancer or for anyone referred by their GP for investigation. 

If you would like to donate or fundraise for a project that will increase early diagnosis, reduce NHS spending and save lives please click on the button below.  Every donation will be greatly appreciated and will go directly towards improving care for the future.