skip to primary navigationskip to content

Contributing to the national Covid-19 response

last modified May 05, 2020 12:41 PM

At a time when the scientific community worldwide rallies around to fight back this deadly disease, researchers and staff at the MRC Cancer Unit and the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre continue to play their part.


Several of our post-docs have volunteered their expertise at the newly set up University-AZ-GSK testing centres at the Anne McLaren building and also to help run the Campus’ research and testing – now consolidated in the JCBC building. Our clinician researchers (including group leader Dr Serena Nik-Zainal) have gone back to support their colleagues in the hospital and Serena has even ferried across supplies of PPE donated by a collaborating company Novogene to the Addenbrookes. In addition, the Unit has donated both equipment and spare PPE to help run testing facilities and equip key workers in hospitals.





Also with an inevitable cost to other diagnostic services, Early Detection of cancer has taken a significant backseat. To help address this dangerous vacuum Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald and colleagues have come forward with a solution for patients awaiting diagnostic tests for symptoms related to the oesophagus by using the Cytosponge. The "pill on a string" device, which has been progressing through national clinical trials to show that it can detect pre-cancerous cells, was administered in April for the first time to patients at Addenbrooke’s to detect cancer as part of a new clinical service in response to COVID-19 restrictions in endoscopy.  Rebecca comments, "I realised we could use the Cytosponge – given this is a crisis situation – and provide some diagnostic assessments for those with worrying symptoms when most cancer testing, which relies on endoscopy, is on hold. Compared to an endoscopy, which requires three medical staff, the Cytosponge is less invasive for patients and safer for medical staff because fewer aerosols are released."