Mobile menu open

Cambridge Professor receives OBE for services to cancer

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald, director of the Early Cancer Institute, has received an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to cancer.

She was among the many Cambridge academics recognised in the late Queen's Platinum Jubilee Birthday Honours List.

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald with her OBE
Prof Rebecca Fitzgerald receiving her OBE in Windsor

Prof Fitzgerald has led pioneering advances in research and technological innovation to detect cancer earlier in order to improve outcomes for cancer patients - which underpins the vision of the Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital.

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.

The Early Cancer Institute Research Clinic will lead the way in helping to advance minimally invasive new technologies and novel devices to detect cancer early enough to cure it.

Prof Fitzgerald's research is focused on developing new ways to detect oesophageal cancer early.

Rebecca Fitzgerald with cytosponge
Prof Fitzgerald holding the Cytosponge

Working with her team at the University of Cambridge, she invented the Cytosponge, with funding from the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.

This ‘sponge on a string’ test 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 test

The Cytosponge is now licensed for use in NHS Scotland (opens in a new tab), helping tackle backlogs in cancer care caused by the pandemic.

Recruitment is due to start later this year for a new trial funded by the NIHR and Cancer Research UK (opens in a new tab) 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.

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.

Prof Fitzgerald
Rebecca Fitzgerald

Prof 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.”

For most cancers, earlier diagnosis greatly improves the outcomes of treatment. Cambridge research is poised to radically transform patients' lives through new modes of early detection.

Embedded within the Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital, the Early Cancer Institute Research Clinic will help understand the very earliest stages of cancer development, develop innovative technologies and enable first-in human clinical trials for early cancer detection to establish the feasibility, acceptability, and cost-effectiveness of new diagnostics and early interventions.

By collaborating with research and industry partners to detect the earliest signs of cancer, the Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital is offering hope and a greater quality of life to cancer patients across the region, the UK and the world.

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

Read patient Liz Chipchase's story about her involvement in the Cytosponge trial.

Because her cancer was detected early, she managed to avoid an operation and chemotherapy.