GP stethoscope

Cancer Research UK trial launched in GP’s nationwide for testing Barrett’s Oesophagus

Cancer Research UKCancer Research UK have funded a trial that allows GP surgeries to test for Barrett’s Oesophagus, a condition which can increase the chances of developing oesophageal cancer.

Up to 150 GP practices nationwide will trial offering the Cytosponge test, a less invasive way to test for changing oesophageal cells in patients experiencing acid reflux symptoms.

The Cytosponge test involves the patient swallows a capsule with a sponge inside, attached to a string. When it reaches the stomach, the capsule dissolves, exposing the sponge, which a nurse then pulls out. As it passes up the oesophagus, it collects cells from the lining for analysis. Although the test can be uncomfortable it is not painful and takes 5 minutes to perform.

CR UK researchers hope the trial will assess whether the Cytosponge test will increase the number of Barrett’s oesophagus diagnoses in primary care, whilst also examining how cost effective the technique is and if patients are prepared to take the test.

CR UK noted that this is the last step for the trial before the process could be adopted into mainstream practice across the nation. The process also has the potential of streamlining patients for endoscopy, ensuring that those referred are the ones who need it.

Trial researchers are looking for GP surgeries across the UK to sign up and take part. The criteria for the trial participants requires patients aged 50 and over and be on long-term acid-suppressant medication.

The CR UK team aim to recruit nearly 9,000 patients to the trial, half of which will receive the standard of care while the other half will be offered the Cytosponge test in addition to care. Patients with a positive Cytosponge test result will also receive standard endoscopy test to confirm the results of the Cytosponge test. At the end of the trial, 10 % of patients on both arms of the trial will be offered an endoscopy.

While many patients diagnosed with Barrett’s oesophagus won’t develop oesophageal cancer, performing the test on such a large scale could lead to understanding who is at increased risk could help to prevent oesophageal cancer, or to diagnose the disease earlier when treatment is more likely to be successful.

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, lead author at the MRC Cancer Unit, University of Cambridge, said: “We’re excited to see this being tried out in GP surgeries. It’s a safe way to test for Barrett’s oesophagus and we hope that this will make it easier for GPs to identify patients who have an increased risk of developing oesophageal cancer without having to refer them to hospital.”

Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s GP expert, said: “GPs are always looking for new ways to ensure patients receive the best possible care. 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.”

Source – Cancer Research UK

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