Researchers Develop Groundbreaking Esophageal Cancer Test

According to a story from Science Daily, a team including Dr. Stephen Meltzer from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has developed a method for detecting esophageal cancer. In the past, esophageal cancer has been considered highly dangerous because it often reaches an advanced stage by the time symptoms appear, which makes it difficult to treat.

About Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer affects the esophagus, which is the passage that allows food to travel from the mouth to the stomach. This type of cancer can take patients and doctors by surprise since it does not cause symptoms in the early stages. Risk factors for esophageal cancer include consumption of alcohol, betel nut, and tobacco, frequent consumption of very hot beverages, a diet high in processed foods, obesity, and acid reflux. Symptoms of the disease include difficulty swallowing, pain when swallowing, weight loss, a hoarse cough, abdominal pain, vomiting blood, and enlarged lymph nodes. Treatment of esophageal cancer usually includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery; cancer that has spread is typically considered incurable. Since most patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage, survival rates for esophageal cancer are bad with just 15 percent of patients remaining alive after five years. To learn more about esophageal cancer, click here.

Detecting Esophageal Cancer

The system that the team has developed is dubbed the EsophaCap. This test investigates certain biomarkers in order to detect changes in the composition of the esophageal lining, which can be an indicator of esophageal cancer or a precursor condition known as Barrett’s esophagus. 

The test works as a capsule with a long string attached. The patient swallows the capsule and the outer coating dissolves in the stomach to reveal a small sponge within the capsule. The sponge is then pulled out of the stomach, through the esophagus, and back out of the patient’s mouth, gathering genetic material from the edge of the esophagus as it travels. The sponge is then mailed off to a lab for testing.

When it comes to esophageal cancer, early treatment and detection is the key to survival. If the EsophaCap test becomes widely implemented, it could make it much easier for esophageal cancer to get detected early before it becomes impossible to cure. Check out the abstract for this study here.


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