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Genetic markers could catch oesophageal cancer earlier

Genetic markers indicating early signs of oesophageal cancer could help improve low rates of survival by monitoring people with high-risk genetic patterns, research suggests

Genetic markers indicating early signs of oesophageal cancer could help improve low rates of survival, research suggests.

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An illustration of Barrett's oesophagus symptoms. Picture: Science Photo Library

University of Cambridge researchers looked at tissue samples from people with Barrett’s oesophagus – a common condition affecting the food pipe that can develop into cancer in around 5% of cases.

The team retrospectively identified predictive genetic markers in 94% of people who later developed early signs of cancer.

Earlier diagnosis

Samples used in the study had been taken during routine endoscopies for people with Barrett’s oesophagus over a period of 15 years.

The researchers compared markers between 45 patients who developed cancer and 45 who did not.

There are currently no tests that can accurately predict the small number of people with Barrett’s oesophagus who go on to develop cancer.

But the genetic markers could mean people with high-risk genetic patterns can be closely monitored for early signs that cancer will develop, helping diagnose and treat it earlier.


Killcoyne S et al (2017) Predicting oesophageal cancer progression using genomic information in pre-malignant oesophageal tissues. National Cancer Research Institute conference abstracts.

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