Investigators at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center have developed a simple, swallowable test for early detection of Barrett’s esophagus that offers promise for preventing deaths from esophageal adenocarcinoma.
Barrett’s esophagus (BE) is the precursor lesion of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), a highly lethal cancer with more than 80 percent mortality at five years. Lethal EAC can be prevented when patients are diagnosed at the precursor stage of Barrett’s esophagus, and early foci of near cancerous changes (dysplasias) are ablated. However, detection of BE has traditionally necessitated endoscopy, an expensive and invasive test that requires sedation and is thus unsuitable as a method for wide BE screening. In a significant step forward, the team has developed an easy, five minute outpatient test that is more than 90 percent sensitive for detecting individuals with BE. Patients simply swallow a vitamin pill sized balloon that swabs the esophagus, and that, after retrieval through the mouth, is tested for DNA abnormalities that the investigators discovered are diagnostic of BE. A study describing the development of the test and the results from its clinical trial in patients has been published in today’s issue of Science Translational Medicine
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