Researchers have developed a new non-invasive way for screening patients for esophageal cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, the five-year-survival rate for cancer patients is around 66 percent with chances for longer survival climbing rapidly if the cancer was detected early. This is the reason why medical researchers from all around the world are trying with frantic pace to find not only procedures for active treatment of various types of cancer but also new techniques for early detection of cancers. While some researchers have their time and intellect invested into newly developed and highly intricate technologies such as DNA and gene sequencing, others are trying their best to repurpose old technology to serve new goals.

 

Esophageal cancer is a specific type of cancer that develops in the food pipe between the throat and stomach. On a yearly level, it is diagnosed in almost 17 thousand new patients, and it has a five-year-survival rate of only 18 percent, which is much less than many other forms of cancer. The reason why this type of cancer is so deadly partly lies in the fact that it is very difficult to detect and screening for it is can be very invasive with the procedures such as biopsy, balloon cytology, esophagoscopy, chromoendoscopy, and fluorescence spectroscopy. Those invasive techniques area also plagued with their own potential health complications and side effects, and can also in some cases cause the appearance of false positives or worse, even false negatives. Some of the most serious health complications of them include things like breathing trouble,  puncture of the esophagus, the passage of food in the airway and increase in heart attack risk.

But new treatment developed by the researchers from the University of Cambridge called Cytosponge aims to completely reduce the risk of screening for esophageal cancer. Their solution is almost perfect – a  noninvasive, easy to use and cheap “capsule on a string” that can very effectively screen for a presence of  Barrett’s esophagus, which is a health condition that is believed to greatly increases the chance of developing esophageal cancer.

 

The cytosponge capsule is made from the special sponge, which expands in the stomach when the capsule lining is dissolved. After a very short period of time, nurse slowly pulls the capsule out, which enables sponge to come in contact and grab the cells from the lining tissue of esophagus on its way up. The laboratories can then closely examine the sponge and determine the state of patient’s esophagus, without the need for any dangerous invasive procedure. The entire cytosponge procedure requires only five minutes of time, and patients are left without any scars or potential health complications.

 

Currently,. this new and innovative screening method is still being tested in a clinical trial. The final results won’t be released until the research team gains access to over 9 thousand patients over the age of 50 who are receiving long-term acid-suppressant medication. This kind of test is needed to truly examine whether or not this kind of procedure can be used by general health care providers from all around the world.

 

Even if this testing method is not fully ready, it is already clear that it will enable doctors too much more easily diagnose esophageal cancer early, which will potentially save a lot of lives.

Source:  NIH, Mayo Clinic

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