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Early Cancer Institute

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, director of the Early Cancer Institute, has been made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to cancer research. Her research is focused on developing new ways to detect oesophageal cancer early and she has led pioneering advances in research and technological innovation to detect cancer earlier in order to improve outcomes for cancer patients.

Working with her team at the University of Cambridge, she invented the Cytosponge. This 'sponge on a string' test detects 10 times more cases of Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition that can sometimes lead to oesophageal cancer, compared with routine GP care.

Prof Fitzgerald said: "It is an exciting but long path from the seed of an idea through to implementation of a new diagnostic test called Cytosponge in the NHS, and receiving this award is an honour and a tremendous boost for me and the whole team who continue to strive to improve the early diagnosis of cancer."

The Cytosponge is now licensed for use in NHS Scotland, helping tackle backlogs in cancer care caused by the pandemic.

Millions of pounds in funding has recently been announced for a trial that could pave the way for a ‘sponge on a string’ test to be established as a routine screening programme across the UK to detect Barrett’s oesophagus.