An All New Swallowable Device Can Test For Barrett’s Esophagus, a Precursor to Esophageal Cancer

According to a story from healio.com, scientists have developed an easy to use testing method for Barrett’s esophagus, which can be a precursor to esophageal cancer. The new device combines methylated DNA and an encapsulated balloon. In testing, the technology was 90 percent accurate at detecting Barrett’s esophagus.
Barrett’s esophagus is an unusual phenomenon in which the cellular composition of the organ changes. The most likely cause of the condition is repeated exposure to acid as the result of reflux esophagitis, which is inflammation caused by acid reflux. Instead of the cell type normally found in the esophagus, the cells change to goblet cells, which are normally associated with the lower gastrointestinal system. The most critical medical significance of Barrett’s esophagus is its strong correlation with esophageal cancer. In fact, it is considered a ‘premalignant’ condition.

Dr. Sanford Markowitz was a major contributor to the development of the new diagnostic test system. To him, the importance of this new technology is linked to the fact that esophageal cancer is becoming steadily more prevalent, and is the most rapidly increasing cause of the death from solid tumors in adults in the U.S. Currently, it accounts for more deaths than ovarian cancer. Esophageal cancer is dangerous because it often does not cause symptoms until it has begun to metastasize. At this advanced stage it is difficult to treat and five year survival rate stands at a measly 15%. Click here to learn more about this deadly form of cancer.

Ultimately, the value of this new detection method is that, by discovering those patients with Barrett’s esophagus, potential cancer can be curtailed before it begins. This would be an effective method for curtailing the rising death toll from esophageal cancer. The vast majority of people with esophageal cancer never knew that they had developed Barrett’s esophagus.

Previously, the detection of the condition was through the use of an endoscope, a fiber optic camera that was inserted into the esophagus to observe the state of the organ. The cost and invasiveness of this method meant that many patients and doctors were choosing to avoid taking the steps necessary to detect Barrett’s esophagus. With the new, swallowable method, it will be much easier for detection to take place.

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