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New monitor spares cancer sufferers gruelling trips to the hospital

New monitor saves cancer patients grueling trips to hospital: ‘Liberty’ device smaller than a laptop can take blood samples at home to see if patients are healthy enough to continue chemotherapy

Cancer patients could soon be spared grueling trips to hospital with a device to monitor treatment from home.

A trial is being run on the ‘Liberty’ machine, which tests blood samples to see if patients are well enough to continue chemotherapy.

The results are sent to hospital doctors who check blood counts and decide if they can continue taking the medication, which can often be taken orally at home.

Doctors say the device, which is smaller than a laptop, could change the way tens of thousands of people are treated, shorten appointments and save hospitals time and money.

Chemotherapy can cause myelosuppression, or low blood cell counts, which can leave patients exhausted and at risk for life-threatening infections.

The ‘Liberty’ machine (pictured) tests blood samples to see if patients are healthy enough to continue chemotherapy

It’s smaller than a laptop… but makes a big difference

The new device has made life a lot easier for Phil Frost, who says the only hard thing about using it is poking his own finger.

He was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2019 and has had chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy but now has secondary tumors on his collarbone.

Positive: Phil Frost, 69

Positive: Phil Frost, 69

Liberty allows Mr. Frost, 69, a married father of two from Urmston, Greater Manchester, to check how well his immunotherapy drugs are working without having to go to The Christie.

He tests his blood every four weeks. “It’s very easy to use,” said Mr. Frost. “The hardest part was to prick your own finger.”

The retired manager adds: ‘If this means that patients no longer have to come to The Christie to have their blood drawn in the future, but can simply do this from the comfort of their own home, then that is a wonderful innovation.’

It means that patients often have to attend weekly, biweekly or monthly appointments to measure blood levels before continuing their treatment.

Patients at the Christie specialist center in Manchester test Liberty and use a fingerstick test to get a blood sample.

They put it on a slide and feed it into the machine which then analyzes red and white blood cells and platelet counts to check if a person is at risk for complications.

Dr. Toby Basey-Fisher, CEO of Liberty’s makers Entia, said it could help with chemotherapy outside of a medical setting.

He added: ‘More and more cancer treatments are becoming oral therapies, so for these patients it is of great value if the only reason you come is for pre-treatment assessments or checks.

‘Since Covid, there is a lot of remote consultation, but one of the challenges is how to get the blood tests done.

“This is a way for patients to self-test at home so that decisions can be made without having to be in the hospital.

“It’s such a challenging time, being dragged in and out of hospital is often the last thing people want to do.”

Dr. Sacha Howell, medical oncology consultant at The Christie, said: ‘This is an exciting development.

“Positive results could lead us to implement this device in our routine services to improve patient experience and treatment in the very near future.”

Researchers hope the machine will be approved by regulators later this year.

It will help those who only need blood tests, but others should still go to hospital for other checks, such as liver or kidney function.

Liberty could also be used in the NHS’s push to set up ‘virtual wards’ for up to 50,000 elderly and frail patients, as it has the potential to monitor a range of conditions in the future.