Five biomarker panel could cut esophageal cancers

Barrett's esophagus is caused by acid reflux, and can make people up to 45 times more vulnerable to high-grade dysplasia (HGD) or esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) over a period of 7 years. Single biomarkers aren't sensitive enough alone, but a panel of five biomarkers could help doctors spot the patients who could be at most risk.

In a retrospective case-control study presented at the 2011 Digestive Disease Week, clinicians used the histologic and immunochemical biomarkers to assess a group of patients, including 66 people who developed HGD or EAC, and 234 patients with Barrett's esophagus whose disease did not worsen. The combination of biomarkers had an odds ratio of progression of 45.6.

"We believe this panel [of biomarkers] could be applied to biopsies of Barrett's esophagus at diagnosis to guide treatment and surveillance," Jason Dunn, M.D., of University College London told Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News.

The researchers are planning a large-scale trials, and believe that this approach could be useful in routine patient management. If patients can be spotted and treated at an earlier stage, this will help the patients, and cut healthcare costs as well.

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