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Early Cancer Institute

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald in the lab

On 29th December 2023, Early Cancer Institute Director, Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, spoke with the popular magazine Good Housekeeping about her career and what motivates her work. She outlined how she has seen the cancer landscape transform since the start of her career in the 1990s. Back then, it was much more about the treatment of late-stage disease, where outcomes for patients were often poor. Now, the focus has shifted to detecting cancer at an early stage, and even identifying individuals who may be at risk of cancer before any malignant cells have developed.

Rebecca's particular area of interest is oesophageal cancer, which is still typically diagnosed at a late stage. In order to address this, over many years Rebecca and her team have developed a pill-on-a-string test which a patient swallows. The pill dissolves in the stomach, releasing a small sponge that is then drawn back up through the oesophagus, gathering cells from the gullet wall as it passes. These cells are then analysed for any changes that could indicate a pre-cancerous, or cancerous, condition so that appropriate treatment and management may be offered.

In the interview, Rebecca comments that we are "now on the way to eliminating cervical cancer, and it would be wonderful to think this might be possible for oesophageal and other cancers too."

You can read the full interview with Good Housekeeping, part of their "Future Gazing" series, on Readly ( but you will have to enter an email address to do so.