Europlaz helps to develop Oesophageal Cancer Test

The Cytosponge is a quicker, cheaper, easier and a less invasive way to look for and monitor people who could be at risk of this dangerous, but often preventable, cancer.

Cytosponge is an innovative test for Barrett’s Oesophagus – a condition that can increase a person’s risk of developing oesophageal (food pipe) cancer. It’s a cheap and simple test that can be done in a GP surgery instead of a referral to hospital for an endoscopy.

Patients who have had gastroesophageal reflux disease (commonly known as acid reflux) symptoms for a long time have a higher chance of developing Barrett’s Oesophagus. Therefore, they are invited to take the Cytosponge test.

The Cytosponge is a sponge shaped like a sphere that is compressed within a gelatine capsule. The capsule is around 2 centimetres long – the size of a 20 pence coin – and is attached to a string. The capsule is swallowed while the nurse holds onto the string.

After five to seven minutes, the capsule dissolves in the stomach, allowing the sponge to expand. Once that time is up, the nurse pulls the sponge from the stomach through the oesophagus to the mouth. This only takes one or two seconds.

The sponge will now contain cells from the inner lining of the oesophagus. The sponge will then be sent to a lab. In the lab, the sponge is tested to detect signs of Barrett’s Oesophagus. After a few weeks, the results are sent back to the GP who will discuss them with the patient.


Europlaz’s involvement in the Cytosponge

In early 2013 Europlaz was approached by an agency to help them on a project they were working on in conjunction with the University of Cambridge.

Over several months we attended several meetings with Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald (Head of Cancer Research at University of Cambridge) and the agency. These meeting scoped out the requirement of Cytosponge.

After finalising the design and a preliminary manufacturing process, prototypes were supplied to the University.
In 2014 a manufacturing cell was set up on one of our ISO class 7 Cleanrooms and parts were supplied for early-stage clinical evaluation. During this year, the MHRA granted approval to use Cytrosponge and batches were supplied for clinical trials.


A Medical Professional’s view of this Test

“At present, we have to send people we’re concerned about to hospital for an endoscopy. But the Heartburn Sponge Test is a quicker, cheaper, easier and a less invasive way to look for and monitor people who could be at risk of this dangerous, but often preventable, cancer,” he added.

Michelle Mitchell, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK said it was exciting to see the pilot of the Cytosponge in a primary care setting after a decade of research.


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