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Scientists identify a novel mechanism for evolution of highly aggressive cancers
Date:6/27/2011

Dr Frank McKeon, Senior Group Leader of the Stem Cell and Developmental Biology at A*STAR's Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), and Principal Investigator Dr Wa Xian at A*STAR's Institute of Medical Biology (IMB), together with their counterparts from the Harvard Medical School, the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and the National University of Singapore, have made the striking finding that Barrett's esophagus[1] work, published online in the journal Cell on 24 June 2011, is essential to developing therapeutics for esophageal cancer., the precursor of the most deadly esophageal cancer[2], can form without mutations in a matter of a few days. The

The scientists discovered that Barrett's esophagus arises from a very small group of embryonic cells that exist in all adults at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach. In most people, these embryonic cells are restricted to that junction. However, if the esophagus becomes damaged by acid reflux, these embryonic cells rapidly grow to exploit this opportunity and form the unusual, intestine-like tissue of Barrett's esophagus.

Using an independent mouse model to test the origins of Barrett's metaplasia[3] in adult animals, the scientists examined the molecular properties and evolution of metaplasia in mice, as a means to speeding up the development of esophageal cancer therapies in human. As treatment for late stage esophageal cancer is challenging and largely palliative, a better knowledge of the earlier, precancerous stage of this disease, such as Barrett's esophagus, serves as a prerequisite to developing therapeutic approaches.

Dr Wa, corresponding author of the publication in Cell, noted that "the exciting feature of this work is that these embryonic cells are present in everyone and do not have to be mutated to become a major threat as a high-risk cancer precursor cell. Preliminary work in the lab suggests our findings in Barrett's esophagus provide a valid
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Contact: Winnie Serah Lim
limcp2@gis.a-star.edu.sg
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore
Source:Eurekalert

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