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Researchers home in on genetic signature of esophageal cancer
Date:5/18/2011

University of Rochester Medical Center researchers have pinpointed two genes that are amplified in the worst cases of esophageal cancer, providing data to support a new investigational treatment that targets those same genes.

The study, led by Tony Godfrey, Ph.D., a research associate professor of Surgery at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at URMC, was published by the journal Clinical Cancer Research. It explores the chromosomal abnormalities that influence poor survival rates of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), the more common type of esophageal cancer which occurs at the junction of the stomach and esophagus.

Considered uncommon 20 years ago, the incidence of EAC has grown faster than any tumor type in the United States, Godfrey said. Health authorities believe high rates of obesity and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) contribute to the rising numbers. And despite more awareness, early detection, and newer combinations of cancer therapies, overall survival of esophageal adenocarcinoma ranges from 70 percent to 80 percent for early-stage patients to only 5 percent to 20 percent for stage 3 or 4 patients. Since most cases are discovered when the cancer has already spread, EAC is often a devastating disease.

Until lately, the identification of gene targets for EAC had been limited by too few tissue samples and the inability of technology to provide a finely detailed map of gene mutations.

However, Godfrey's lab was able to collect tumors samples from 116 EAC patients, and then use modern molecular analysis tools microarray technology -- to investigate the DNA in the tissue. The goal was to study known chromosomal regions associated with EAC and look for subsets of genes involved in malignancy that might also be markers of poor survival.

A better understanding of genetic markers is important because many modern cancer drugs, known as "targeted therapies," are designed to chemically inhibit or block t
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Contact: Leslie Orr
leslie_orr@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-5774
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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