There is a newly developed ‘pill on a string’, developed at the University of Cambridge which can help doctors detect oesophageal cancer. This pill is swallowed, and once it has dissolved and travelled down the oesophagus, it forms a ‘cytosponge’ that scrapes off over half a million cells when withdrawn up the gullet, that can be tested for oesophageal cancer. Through scraping off the cells the entirety of the passage of the gullet, it allows doctors to collect cells from all along the gullet, whereas standard biopsies take individual point samples.
This development is potentially a revolutionary investigation and can make a huge difference in terms of investigating patients with potential malignancy or premalignant conditions in the oesophagus, and because this can now be done more simply, more cost effective and now patients are able to be potentially monitored much more easily. Most oesophageal cancers occur in the lower third of the oesophagus. Incidence rates for oesophageal cancer are projected to fall by 3% in the UK between 2014 and 2035, to 18 cases per 100,000 people by 2034. 1 in 55 men and 1 in 115 women will be diagnosed with oesophageal cancer during their lifetime. This discovery is likely to save many lives ultimately and prevent advanced cancer of the oesophagus.