New Hope For Therapy In Heartburn-Related Cancer, Hubrecht Institute Study

Published: Jan 12, 2010

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EurekAlert! -- Cancer of the gullet, or oesophagus, is one of the ten most common cancers in the Western world, and there have been recent alarming increases in the number of cases each year in the US and UK. There is no good treatment, and sufferers frequently face a short, painful battle which ends all too quickly in death. Many of the cancers diagnosed are in people with a long history of heartburn. Chronic heartburn leads to the lower parts of the gullet being bathed in a toxic acid solution, and the lining of the gullet defends itself against this by changing itself into something which looks a lot like the lining of the lower intestines. Although the damaged tissue, called Barrett's oesophagus, is not cancerous in itself, its presence warns doctors that the patient has taken the first step towards cancer, and triggers a rigorous programme of monitoring, coupled with therapy to prevent further damage.

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