A man from Urmston has become one of the first patients in the UK to test a new device that could revolutionise how cancer patients are monitored during treatment.
Phil Frost, 69, a retired business manager diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2019, has tested a device that will analyse a patient's blood samples from the comfort of their own home.
The Christie, Manchester's internationally acclaimed cancer centre, invited him to participate in a trial of the 'Liberty' equipment, which has been developed by a company called Entia.
Patients using the 'Liberty' device, which is a little smaller than a laptop, prick their finger to get a blood sample and then feed it into the machine on a slide. The device then analyses their blood sample and can send the results directly to the hospital results system. This helps the clinical team in its decision-making about whether a patient’s blood counts are sufficient to proceed with further treatments such as chemotherapy.
Phil was referred to The Christie in 2019 after being diagnosed with bladder cancer and started immediately on chemotherapy, followed later by radiotherapy. He responded well to the initial treatments but subsequently developed secondary tumours on his collarbone.
“I was referred back to The Christie,” said Phil, “And I started chemotherapy again on Christmas Eve. However, this time it was less effective than the first time, and after about nine weeks, the decision was made to try me on an immunotherapy drug instead. I've been on that ever since. So far, it seems to be working well. It has stopped the cancer from progressing in one area, and there is a small improvement in another area."
Phil first found out about the clinical trial for the blood testing device when he was at The Christie waiting for a blood test to be done. A member of Christie staff came to talk to him and explained about the trial and what would be involved.
"After being asked if I would like more information, I was invited to a meeting with one of the research assistants”, said Phil. “They talked me through everything in detail, so I knew exactly what to expect.
"The blood testing equipment is a similar size to a laptop computer. You switch it on and pull out a tray used to collect the slide with the blood sample. You wash your hands, then prick your finger to get a blood sample and add the blood to a slide. You put the slide in the tray and push it back inside the machine, which gets to work analysing your blood.
"It is very easy to use, even if you are not familiar with technology or computers. The hardest thing was having to prick your own finger.”
Phil tested the blood testing device during a visit to The Christie on 24 October 2022. He hopes that if the trial is successful and the equipment is licensed for use in the UK this summer, it will be made available for patients to use in their own homes.
"I had absolutely no concerns about using the technology or it being part of a clinical trial," he said. "If this means that patients in future won't have to come to The Christie to have their blood tested but can do it from the comfort of their own home, then I think that is a wonderful innovation."
Phil has his blood tested once every four weeks to ensure he is well enough to continue with his immunotherapy treatment. He is married to Rona and has two grown-up children and five grandchildren. Phil's hobbies and interests include classic motorbikes.
Phil was one of 15 patients at The Christie recruited for the initial Liberty trial.
Dr Sacha Howell, a medical oncology consultant at The Christie, is the Chief Investigator for the follow-on trial testing Liberty in patients’ homes. He said: “This is an exciting development for our cancer patients. We will recruit 60 patients from around England, including 10 from The Christie, to assess how much time and money standard blood tests take compared with home monitoring and whether the patients prefer using the Liberty device. Positive results could lead to us implementing this device into our routine services to improve patients’ experiences and treatment pathways in the very near future.”
Dr Toby Basey-Fisher, the founder and CEO of Entia, who developed the blood testing device that Phil tested, said: "We’ve been delighted to work with so many incredible patients and healthcare professionals from across The Christie and the wider NHS to develop Liberty. It’s been a highly collaborative and informative process that will result in an innovation that can support the delivery of more care in the home."
The Liberty device is now awaiting regulatory approval for use in the UK. However, Entia hopes to launch the product commercially in mid-2023.