CUH Logo

Mobile menu open

Multi-million investment in early cancer tests

The Cambridge team behind Cytosponge - the 'sponge on a string' which identifies people at risk of oesophageal cancer - is expanding its work in the UK and beyond following a £13.4 million investment.


More than 15,000 NHS patients have already benefited from the Cytosponge test in more than 80 primary and community care sites across the UK.

The new financing includes a £3.4 million NHS Cancer Programme grant provided with the support of SBRI Healthcare.

The rest is made up of both equity and grant funding for cancer diagnostic technology, co-led by BGF and Morningside Ventures.

Watch: Liz Chipchase explains how Cytosponge helped save her life (opens in a new tab)

How does the Cytosponge work?

Cytosponge is a small coated pill on a string that contains a sponge.

It’s easy for people to swallow, and when the pill reaches the stomach, the coating dissolves and the sponge expands.

When the sponge is pulled back up, it collects some of the cells lining the oesophagus on its way.

The cells collected are sent off for analysis in the lab, where a simple antibody test called TFF3 is carried out by pathologists, which can easily spot the signs of a precancerous condition called Barrett’s oesophagus.

Prof Rebecca Fitzgerald
Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald

Early stage cancer is a major global health issue, and we believe that our technology has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of even more patients and their families.

Dr Marcel Gehrung

The new funding has been raised by Cyted, a company founded by the team that created Cytosponge, including Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald OBE and Dr Marcel Gehrung, both from the University of Cambridge.

As an early cancer diagnostics company, Cyted is a prime example of bringing ground-breaking science to industry.

The company’s innovative diagnostic platform combines a non-invasive test with data-driven biomarkers for early detection and risk stratification of cancers and inflammatory diseases

The new funding will be used to scale up existing markets, as well as entering the US market, and continuing Cyted’s research and development programmes.

It will also support the further expansion of Cytosponge testing to NHS patients in primary and community care settings in the East of England, Lancashire and the Wessex NHS region.

It follows a £500,000 grant from SBRI Healthcare in Spring 2022 for a separate project providing community testing in the North-West of England.

Rebecca Fitzgerald with cytosponge
Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald holding Cytosponge

Cyted is one of the most innovative companies at the intersection of diagnostics and cancer.

Lucy Edwardes Jones

Lucy Edwardes Jones from BGF said:

“Cyted is addressing a real-world issue with a simple and scalable solution.

"Their technology is already being used across the UK health system with the potential to have a significant impact on patients around the world.”

More about oesophageal cancer

Oesophageal cancer is a global public health priority, with late diagnoses and long waiting times for endoscopies leading to poor survival rates.

Earlier diagnosis and better monitoring of Barrett’s oesophagus patients, who are at higher risk of developing oesophageal cancer, can help ensure that cancer is caught early and treated.

By identifying cancer in its earliest stages, the Cystosponge test helps to reduce the number of unnecessary endoscopies, has the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes and save lives - and is already doing so.

Architect Image of the Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital
Image of Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald's work in research and technological innovation to detect cancer earlier underpins the vision of the Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital (opens in a new tab).

The new state-of-the-art facility will house three world-leading research institutes focused on early detection, integrated cancer medicine and precision breast cancer medicine.