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Study finds molecular 'signature' for rapidly increasing form of esophageal cancer
Date:3/24/2013

BOSTONDuring the past 30 years, the number of patients with cancers that originate near the junction of the esophagus and stomach has increased approximately 600 percent in the United States. The first extensive probe of the DNA of these esophageal adenocarcinomas (EACs) has revealed that many share a distinctive mix-up of letters of the genetic code, and found more than 20 mutated genes that had not previously been linked to the disease. The research, led by scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Broad Institute, and other research centers, may offer clues to why EAC rates have risen so sharply. The findings, which are being released as an advanced online publication by Nature Genetics, point to an array of abnormal genes and proteins that may be lynchpins of EAC cell growth and therefore serve as targets for new therapies, according to the study's authors.

"Adenocarcinomas of the esophagus, particularly those that arise at the gastroesophageal junction, were extremely uncommon 40 years ago and now account for approximately 15,000 new cases in the United States each year," said Adam Bass, MD, of Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute, who is co-senior author of the paper with Gad Getz, PhD, of the Broad Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital. "Unfortunately, it's also a disease with a generally poor prognosis: five years after diagnosis, only about 15 percent of patients are still alive. Bass added that despite the increased incidence of EAC, there have been few new approaches to treatment. "The goal of our study was to identify abnormalities within the genome of EAC cells to develop a foundation to better understand these tumors, diagnose them earlier, and develop better treatments," explained Bass.

EAC is thought to be associated with chronic gastroesophageal reflux, which sends stomach acid gurgling into the esophagus. This produces a condition known as Barrett's esophagus, in which cells at the lower end of the esop
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Contact: Anne Doerr
anne_doerr@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5665
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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