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This ‘Pill-on-a-String’ Turns into a Cell-Collecting Sponge That Could Detect Esophageal Cancer

This ‘Pill-on-a-String’ Turns into a Cell-Collecting Sponge That Could Detect Esophageal Cancer

A pill-on-a string might seem like a simple concept, but it’s actually a potentially life-saving approach that collects a half a million possibly pre-cancerous cells and helps doctors prevent and/or detect esophageal cancer.

Developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., the Cytosponge, is an innovative molecular test for Barrett’s esophagus – a condition that can increase a person’s risk of developing esophageal (food pipe) cancer. It’s a simple, relatively less-invasive, and cost-effective test that can be done instead of having an endoscopy at a hospital.



The way it works is a patient swallows the Cytosponge and then after a few minutes, the pill’s outer “shell” disintegrates and the pill expands into a small rough-textured sponge in the stomach. The sponge is then pulled back up and on its journey, it collects about half a million cells that line the food pipe. These cells are then sent off to the lab for analysis.

This can be a preemptive measure for patients who suffer from regular symptoms of heartburn, acid reflux or indigestion and may develop the aforementioned condition, Barrett’s esophagus. By identifying and monitoring patients with Barrett’s esophagus, doctors would be able to catch any early signs of esophageal cancer.

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