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Reseachers are investigating new method that predict progression of Barrett’s esophagus to esophageal adenocarcinoma

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Reseachers are investigating new method that predict progression of Barrett’s esophagus to esophageal adenocarcinoma

According to an article published in Cancer Prevention Research, the risk of malignant degeneration of Barrett’s esophagus to esophageal adenocarcinoma can be predicted using microARNs. Barrett esophagus means damage of the esophageal epithelium and is considered a premalignant condition that may progress to esophageal adenocarcinoma. Xifeng Wu, MD, chair of the Department of Epidemiology, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said that if in the past esophageal adenocarcinoma represented a rare cancer, the incidence has increased now 6 times in the last 3 decades and now represents more than 80% of cancers of all new cases of esophageal cancer. He added that to decrease mortality in esophageal adenocarcinoma, the best solution is to detect cancer in its early stages and even better in detecting precancerous conditions such as Barrett’s esophagus.

Barrett's esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition whose etiology is not known exactly, but the most common Barrett’s esophagus is associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease. So an important role in causing this condition consists in exposure to gastric acidity. It should be noted that there are cases of congenital Barrett’s esophagus but is rare. Biopsy and histopathology examination are the gold standard in diagnosis and treatment can consist of proton pump inhibitors, antireflux surgery, endoscopic ablation etc.

Wu and his team of researchers at the University of Texas conducted many studies and found that an important role in cancer development is represented by microRNAs. It seems that in cancer there is an aberrant expression of microRNAs. Therefore, they evaluated the expression of  microARNs in normal esophageal epithelium, in Barrett’s esophagus and in esophageal adenocarcinoma of different histological grades. Thus researchers found that the expression of these microRNAs is present both in Barrett’s esophagus and in esophageal adenocarcinoma in a similar manner, indicating that the presence of these markers are events that occur early in Barrett’s esophagus. Wu said that the aberrant expression of these microRNAs may be one of the events that lead to cancer.

Another discovery made during the research was that a small number of microARNs was significantly different between the two types of conditions: Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. It seems that what differentiates Barrett esophagus of esophageal adenocarcinoma is downregulation of the microRNA miR-375 ( which means  decreasing the number of receptors) and upregulation of five microRNAs of the miR-17-92 and homologue family (which means increasing the number of receptors).