Home test kits for cancer patients approved for use

Home test kits for cancer patients approved for use

A new device to help reduce the time cancer patients spend in hospital has been given regulatory approval.

Liberty allows patients to take a blood test – and upload the results – at home, and without supervision.

Its users say it allows them to reduce hospital visits, while doctors suggest it could improve NHS productivity.

After being trialled at Christie’s, in Manchester, the device will now be used in 12 NHS sites.

However, Cancer Research UK says it has so far only been tested on a small number of people. More work is needed before we know whether it could be used more widely in cancer care, the charity said.

Treatment for cancer involves a battery of blood tests, as medical staff monitor various health indicators such as hemoglobin levels and total white blood cell counts.

Lynn Thompson, who has been battling both ovarian and bowel cancer since 2017 – and was one of the trial patients – said being able to do some of the tests at home was a huge relief.

“I just fell in love with the machine to be honest with you. It’s very easy to follow and use,” said the 52-year-old.

She said it allowed her to no longer be tied to a regular schedule of hospital visits, which she found physically and mentally exhausting – especially given her fear of needles.

“By the time I’d go into the blood room to the chair, I’d probably pass out, and that had a knock-on effect – it made me feel really bad all day.

“The machine takes all of that, it’s a simple painless finger prick. It’s a little blood and then it’s hidden – there’s no pressure or worry.”

The device, the size of a small printer, can feed blood sample analysis directly back to the hospital team.

Sacha Howell, senior lecturer in medical oncology at the University of Manchester, said moving blood tests from hospital premises to the comfort of patients’ homes would not only be easier for patients but could also mean savings for the NHS.

Recently, The Christie – one of the largest cancer treatment centers of its kind in Europe – has placed phlebotomy units throughout the region in what is known as “blood closer to home.”

“But it still means we need to staff the unit, so patients can have blood tests,” said Dr Howell.

“If patients can do it themselves at home, that will result in significant efficiency.”

Tests carried out at The Christie have yielded encouraging results, despite the low number of patients.

There were 22 patients like Lynn participating in the home study, complemented by a regulatory approval trial involving 470 patients.

Cancer Research says the low figure means caution is warranted.

“It is very early days” for this technology “and further research is needed” he said in a statement.

“Regulatory approval does not provide an indication of efficacy or clinical utility at this stage – that question needs to be addressed in future clinical trials of the device before it can be used more widely,” he added.

The boss of the company that makes it, Entia, is confident about what it says is the world’s first blood count analyzer that patients can use in their own homes.

“By providing insight into a patient’s health status, the device empowers healthcare professionals to address complications early, reducing hospital admissions and treatment interruptions,” said Dr Toby Basey-Fisher.

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