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Winning oesophageal cancer presentation shines light on the disease

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The winning entry in a competition aimed at raising awareness of oesophageal cancer has been announced.

Researchers were invited to present research on oesophageal cancer in a way that can be understood by the general public. Read more about the competition here.

The winning entry is below.

Shining Light on the Path to Cancer

Max Almond

Patients with long-standing acid indigestion may be at risk of developing oesophageal cancer. A new test developed at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital uses laser light down the oesophagus to pinpoint tiny cancers before they are detectable by the naked eye. 

Oesophageal cancer is increasing at an astonishing rate and is becoming one of the biggest causes of death from cancer in the UK. Patients usually develop an inability to swallow, with a sensation of food getting ‘stuck’, but by this stage it is often too late and the cancer has already spread. As a result less than 10% of patients with oesophageal cancer can be cured. 

The Biophotonics Unit in Gloucestershire Royal Hospital has developed a test that uses a LASER to detect oesophageal cancer at an early stage. The LASER can see invisible microscopic changes in groups of cells that are beginning to become cancerous and enables very early treatment to be targeted to these cells so that cancer can be prevented.

The test is aimed at people with long-standing acid indigestion who are known to be at greatest risk of developing oesophageal cancer. These patients would be referred by their GP for the investigation which will involve a telescope test of the oesophagus and careful scanning using a LASER probe (figure 1).

The technique (called Raman spectroscopy) has shown great promise in laboratory testing and we are planning a clinical trial in patients in the near future. If successful this test would have a hugely positive impact on patient care.


Figure 1. How the LASER probe could alter clinical practice.

Thank you to Jo Hutchings, Nick Stone, Neil Shepherd, Catherine Kendall and Hugh Barr, members of the Biophotonics Research Unit, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

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