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Cytosponge – a new diagnostic test

7 Aug 2015

Researchers at the MRC Cancer Cell Unit in Cambridge have developed a simple and inexpensive test called the ‘Cytosponge’ that can detect Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition that affects around 1-2 per cent of adults in the UK. In these people, the multiple layers of flat cells that usually line the oesophagus become a single layer of rectangular cells more like those in the intestine. The change in these cells is caused by acid reflux – stomach juices irritating cells of the oesophagus. The changed cells have an increased chance of becoming dysplastic (abnormal) and they are more likely than other cells to develop into cancer. Research suggests that 3-10 in 100 people with the condition will go on to develop cancer of the oesophagus over their lifetime.

The MRC and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) have funded clinical trials which have shown the test to be well-tolerated, safe and accurate. It is hoped that the test will be used as part of an early diagnosis programme for Barrett’s oesophagus.

Read more about the Cytosponge (PDF, 206KB).

To read about the grant(s) that funded this research, please see Gateway to Research reference MC_U105365007.


  • Categories:
  • Health categories: Cancer
  • Strategic objectives: Tissue disease and degeneration, Securing impact from medical research
  • Locations: Cambridge
  • Type: Success story