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Department of Oncology



Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald (Department of Oncology and Director of the Early Cancer Institute) has received an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to cancer for her research in development of new methods of early detection of oesophageal cancer.

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

Funded by the MRC and CRUK, Rebecca 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, Rebecca invented the Cytosponge - the 'sponge on a string' test, which 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 to tackle backlogs in cancer care caused by the covid 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.”