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Early Cancer Institute

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald receiving her OBE

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, director of the Early Cancer Institute, has received an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to cancer.

She was recognised in the late Queen's Platinum Jubilee Birthday Honours List in 2022, and received the OBE in Windsor in February 2023.

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, with funding from the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK, 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.

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

Recruitment is due to start later this year for a new trial funded by the NIHR and Cancer Research UK that could pave the way for the ‘sponge on a string’ test to be established as a routine screening programme across the UK to detect Barrett’s oesophagus.

Professor 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. 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.”

Rebecca recently spoke to the Cancer Prevention Group at King's College London for their blog, which is supported by the Early Cancer Institute. They spent '5 minutes with Professor Fitzgerald' to learn more about what inspires her, an event that changed her life and the best piece of advice she's been given.