Oesophageal cancer is the 8th most common cancer in the world. The incidence of oesophageal cancer in India is moderately high; associated with diets and lifestyles in low socioeconomic strata. According to the data from cancer registries in India, oesophageal cancer is the second most common cancer among males and the fourth most common cancer among females (sic).
University of Cambridge Cancer Research, UK has developed a capsule which will be very useful in the diagnosis of oesophageal (food pipe) cancer. Cytophage or cytosponge is a capsule designed to diagnose oesophageal cancer. A tiny sponge is placed inside the capsule. The patient swallows the capsule with a thread attached to it. The outer covering of the capsule then dissolves in the stomach in just 5 minutes. The sponge is then pulled out. The sponge collects cells for testing as it passes through your food pipe. The collected cells are then used to diagnose oesophageal cancer.
The new test could replace endoscopy. Endoscopy is a type of invasive diagnostic procedure in which the endoscope is introduced through the mouth into the oesophagus. Endoscopy is very uncomfortable, expensive and doesn’t pick up all types of cancer cells. Hence a negative result of an endoscopy doesn’t rule out the presence of cancer of the oesophagus.
This test can be used to identify conditions which pre dispose to cancer in later life. E.g. Barrett’s oesophagus. In these conditions, due to early diagnosis the development of the lesion into cancer cells can be avoided.
The Cytophage capsule has been tested successfully in almost 2000 patients. Researchers hope to conduct more tests before mass production of the capsule.