What`s new in cancer of the esophagus research and treatment?
Research into the causes, prevention, and treatment of esophageal cancer is now being done at many medical centers, university hospitals, and other institutions across the nation.
Researchers have found certain gene variants are more common in people with Barrett’s esophagus. Further progress may lead to new tests for finding the people who are likely to get Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer earlier, so that these problems can be prevented. Understanding these changes may also lead to new targeted therapies that overcome the effects of these abnormal genes.
Screening and prevention
The rate of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus has risen sharply in recent decades. Efforts are now being made to reduce obesity, a major risk factor for this form of cancer (and several other types as well).
In people with Barrett's esophagus, researchers are trying to determine if newer tests can tell which patients are likely to go on to develop cancer. This may help doctors determine which patients need intense follow-up and which ones may be examined less frequently.
Researchers are also looking for ways to help stop Barrett's cells from turning into pre-cancer or cancer. Drugs such as proton pump inhibitors and aspirin are now being studied for this purpose.
Many studies are testing new ways to combine drugs already known to be active against esophageal cancer to try to improve their effectiveness. Other studies are testing the best ways to combine chemotherapy with radiation therapy.
Targeted drugs, which attack certain substances in cancer cells, have been successful in some other cancers and are now being tested in esophageal cancer. For example, the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) interferes with a protein on esophageal cancer cells called HER2, which helps them grow and spread. Only a small portion of esophagus cancers (mostly adenocarcinomas) have too much of this protein, but this drug may help treat these cancers.
Other targeted drugs are now being studied for use against esophagus cancer as well.
Last Medical Review: 12/10/2012
Last Revised: 01/18/2013