A clinical trial (BEST 3) funded by Cancer Research UK has initiated across GP surgeries in the country to evaluate the Cytosponge test developed by MRC Cancer Unit of the University of Cambridge.
The Cytosponge test is designed as a less invasive way to detect Barrett’s oesophagus, which is believed to enhance the risk of oesophageal cancer.
Aimed to identify changing oesophageal cells in patients with acid reflux symptoms, the trial will assess the ability of the test to increase the number of diagnoses in primary care.
The trial will also determine how cost-effective the test is and the willingness of patients to undergo the technique.
During the trial, a patient swallows a capsule with a sponge inside attached to a string. Upon reaching the stomach, the capsule dissolves, resulting in exposure of the sponge, which is then pulled out by the nurse. As the sponge passes up the oesophagus, it collects cells from the lining for analysis.
The trial will see enrolment of approximately 9,000 subjects aged 50 and above who are on long-term acid-suppressant medication.
Cancer Research UK's GP expert Dr Richard Roope said: "Trialling a new, less invasive technique to test for Barrett’s oesophagus means that many patients each year could be saved from experiencing an endoscopy, which can be uncomfortable.
"Around three in every 100 people with Barrett’s oesophagus go on to develop oesophageal cancer so techniques that help us to prevent or diagnose the disease earlier are vital.”
Image: Trial of Cytosponge test for Barrett’s oesophagus launches in GP surgeries across the UK. Photo: courtesy of Cancer Research UK.