A Capsule, a String, and a Sponge Could Save Millions From Esophageal Cancer

“EsophaCap” Uses Genetic Biomarkers to Detect Dangerous Changes in the Cells Lining the Esophagus

Esophageal cancer, the eighth most common cancer in the world, claims more than 400,000 lives each year. Symptoms often manifest in the later stages of the illness, with little hope for survival, and traditional tests are inexact.

A study published today in Clinical Cancer Research could pave the way for a simple, inexpensive screening for the deadly disease.

The EsophaCap consists of a small capsule with a long string attached to it, which the patient swallows. After it reaches the stomach, the capsule’s coating starts to dissolve.

Inside is a 2-centimeter sponge, attached to the string, most of which still protrudes from the patient's mouth. As the screener pulls the string, the sponge makes its way back out of the patient’s mouth, collecting a rich supply of genetic material as it travels.

The sponge is then sent out for genetic testing that determines the patient’s risk for esophageal cancer.

Ninety-four people received the EsophoCap in the study. Of those subjects, 85% were able to swallow the capsule and the sponge was retrieved successfully from all of them. There was no evidence of bleeding, pain, trauma, or other adverse reactions to the test.

Of the patients who were able to swallow the capsule, almost half were diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus. The rate is much higher than that of the general U.S. population, but most study patients were being treated for gastrointestinal symptoms.

Source: EurekAlert!, January 22, 2019