Mobile screening unit, which uses a 'sponge on a string' to check for early signs of oesophageal cancer, has launched in Cambridge

Cytosponge Mobile Unit

A new mobile diagnostic unit, which will test heartburn sufferers for signs of cancer, is to take its first patients at Shelford GP surgery on 11th June.

The simple 10-minute procedure involves the patient swallowing a pill on a string, which once inside the stomach, expands into a small sponge. The 'Cytosponge' is then pulled up through the oesophagus using the string. The cells it collects along the way can be checked in a lab for abnormalities.

The Cytopsponge was developed by the Early Detection Programme co-lead, Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, and her University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital teams.

Professor Fitzgerald, who specialises in cancer prevention, said the Cytosponge can "diagnose cancer of the oesophagus really early."

"Usually you would have to go to the hospital and get an endoscopy, with all that entails, and our idea was could you make something that was so simple you could go to a mobile unit or GP surgery."

Early signs of oesophageal cancer, the seventh most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK, are often mistaken for heartburn.

The mobile unit is funded and equipped jointly by Heartburn Cancer UK (HCUK) and Innovate UK funded Project DELTA.

After Cambridge, the mobile testing unit will move on to surgeries in Essex and then Suffolk, with the aim of testing being available across the UK in the future.

Watch the ITV Anglia News report about the launch: www.itv.com

For more information about the Mobile Unit, visit: Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre

Find out more about the pilot project and who can get involved at: www.heartburncanceruk.org