Cancer of the esophagus is one of the ten most common cancers in the United States, but there may be hope for treatment of this aggressive disease.
Many of the patients who suffer from cancer of the esophagus suffered from chronic heartburn. Heartburn, or acid reflux, occurs when a valve separating the esophagus from the stomach is weak or missing, and stomach acids enter the esophagus, damaging it. The esophagus attempts to defend itself against heartburn by changing its composition to resemble the cells in your lower intestines. This damaged tissue, called Barrett’s esophagus, warns physicians that the patient is at a higher risk of esophageal cancer. While patients with Barrett’s esophagus can be treated and will not necessary be afflicted by cancer, the tissue cannot be changed back, so the risk of cancer occurring is constantly present.
A team of researchers testing rats have determined that since Barrett’s esophagus cells are similar to those in the colon, they may also share the same reaction to certain drugs. By using the anti-Alzheimer’s drug DBZ, which has an adverse side effect on the lining of the colon, the researchers were able to halt the growth of Barrett’s esophagus and even destroy it completely. This is extremely promising news for the fight against esophageal cancer, and human trials in the future may show significant promise.