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Rebecca Fitzgerald

Medical Researcher

Cancer Research UK


Medical Researcher


Cancer Research UK




54 years





What makes Rebecca Fitzgerald a Global Shaker?

Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald is a prominent British medical researcher focused on the early detection and treatment of oesophageal cancers.

She is a tenured Professor of Cancer Prevention and Program Leader at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Cancer Unit of the University of Cambridge and co-leads the CRUK Cambridge Centre Early Detection Programme.

She is also the Director of Medical Studies for Trinity College, Cambridge, where she is also a Fellow and Honorary Consultant in Gastroenterology and General Medicine at Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

 Fitzgerald’s postdoctoral work took place at the Department of Adult and Paediatric Gastroenterology at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and at The Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

After her postdoctoral positions, Fitzgerald began her own research group at the MRC Cancer Unit in Cambridge and in 2004 they developed Cytosponge, an innovative screening test for Barrett’s oesophagus, a common precursor condition to the often deadly cancer oesophageal adenocarcinoma (food pipe cancer.)

It’s a cheap, minimally invasive and simple test that can be done in a GP surgery instead of a referral to hospital for an endoscopy. It consists of a ‘sponge on a string’ pill and molecular test. When the pill is swallowed it expands into a small rough-textured sponge in the stomach. The sponge is pulled back up collecting some of the cells lining the food pipe, which are sent off to the lab for analysis.

An active voice the public dialogue on cancer research, Fitzgerald has appeared on BBC Radio 4 and ABC Radio Australia.

The professor is currently leading a new trial in collaboration with Owlstone Medical that will be testing the company’s Breath Biopsy® technology for detecting cancer.

The University of Cambridge recently announced that it will be a partner in a £55million transatlantic research alliance to develop radical new strategies and technology to detect cancer at its earliest stage.

A clinical facility will be designed and built in Cambridge to enable early phase clinical trials of diagnostic technologies as part of the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED).

Led by Fitzgerald and physicist Dr Sarah Bohndiek, the Cambridge ACED centre – funded with £3.3million from CRUK – will be made up of 355 members from organisations that include the University of Cambridge, the Gurdon InstituteWellcome Sanger Institute and NHS departments.

The new Clinical Infrastructure for Research in Early Detection (CuRED) facility in Cambridge will test and validate early diagnostics, speeding up the adoption of the most promising technologies.

Prof Fitzgerald said: “Early detection is an area of research that hasn’t been given the attention it deserves. This alliance will allow the field to gain momentum, so the sum of its members will be greater than its parts.

“In Cambridge we will work on essential clinical trials that will result in faster implementation of new early detection strategies and diagnostics, making a real difference to the lives of patients.”

Tags: cancer, cancer detection, cancer prevention, cancer research, Women in Science

Last updated: February 5, 2020