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Detecting esophageal cancer with light
Date:1/4/2011

DURHAM, N.C. A tiny light source and sensors at the end of an endoscope may provide a more accurate way to identify pre-cancerous cells in the lining of the esophagus.

Developed by biomedical engineers at Duke University and successfully tested on patients during a clinical trial at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the device holds the promise of being a less invasive method for testing patients suspected of having Barrett's esophagus, a change in the lining of the esophagus due to acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid splashes, or refluxes, up into the esophagus.

Long periods of acid reflux can change the cells that line the esophagus, making them appear more like intestinal cells than esophageal cells. These cellular changes can also be a precursor to cancer. As in most cancers, early identification of these pre-cancerous cells often leads to better outcomes for patients. Barrett's esophagus afflicts more than one percent of the U.S. population, with most patients above the age of 50.

Using an endoscope to reach the esophagus via the nose, physicians shine short bursts of this light at locations of suspected disease and sensors capture and analyze the light as it is reflected back. In particular, they are trying to spot characteristic changes within the layer of cells known as the epithelium, which line cavities and surfaces throughout the body.

"By interpreting the way the light scatters after we shine it at a location on the tissue surface, we can the spot the tell-tales signs of cells that are changing from their healthy, normal state to those that may become cancerous," said Neil Terry, a Ph.D. student working in the laboratory of Adam Wax, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, who developed the device.

The team published their findings online in the January issue of the journal Gastroenterology.

"Specifically, the
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Contact: Richard Merritt
richard.merritt@duke.edu
919-660-8414
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert  

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