Take Note Of Oesophageal Cancer
First Published: Investigator - September 2008
Flinders researchers are spearheading a campaign for better outcomes for an increasingly common but “underrecognised” condition, Barrett’s-derived oesophageal cancer.
Barrett’s oesophagus is a pre-cancerous condition affecting severe reflux sufferers in which normal cells lining the oesophagus are replaced with abnormal cells that, in some people, develop into a type of cancer of the oesophagus called adenocarcinoma.
Barrett’s oesophagus affects around 10 percent of severe reflux sufferers, with one to two in every hundred per year going on to develop Barrett’s-derived adenocarcinoma.
He said that this means that for every two deaths from colon cancer in Australia, there is one death from Barrett’s-derived adenocarcinoma.
‘Because there is such a high death rate associated with the cancer there’s not a strong lobby group to advocate for the disease and bring it to the public attention.’
David hopes that the research he is leading into improved outcomes for Barrett’s-derived oesophageal cancer will change that.
‘Our research has two components,’ David explained. ‘The first is a laboratory focus, where we are trying to understand new markers of disease progression and changes in cell and gene function.
‘From that, we hope to develop a panel of bio-markers that will allow us to determine which patients with reflux are likely to go on to develop Barrett’s oesophagus and adenocarcinoma.’
David said this would allow medical staff to better target and treat patients in the future.
The second component of the research, being conducted in conjunction with researchers from the Repatriation General Hospital, aims to develop a cost-effective surveillance model for the disease.
‘At the moment surveillance has not been able to be cost effective in the Australian health care system. However, the work has not been done to look at this issue. We might be able to mount a better argument for surveillance, and possibly even screening, if we develop better markers of risk.’
David said the research was important because the incidence of Barrett’s-derived oesophageal cancer was on the increase.
‘The condition mostly affects older men and it is associated with obesity – particularly abdominal obesity – so we’re seeing more and more of it.’
In fact, he said over the past three decades there had been a 600 percent increased prevalence of this cancer.