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Esophageal cancer risk prediction could be aided by miRNA profiling

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Analysis of the miRNA contained within precursor metaplasia of the esophagus – termed Barrett’s esophagus – could aid in predicting the risk of development of esophageal cancer, suggests a recent study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Barrett’s esophagus develops into malignant adenocarcinoma of the esophagus in 0.5% of the cases and thus identification of any biomarkers that may allow for estimation of tumor development in the still-benign tissue is a key task.

The study involved 300 patients and was carried out by investigators of the Gastroesophageal Tumor Unit of the Comprehensive Cancer Center Vienna of the MedUni Vienna and the AKH Vienna (both Austria) in a joint study with the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University (both MD, USA).

Overall, the investigation established that expression of 46 distinct miRNAs was significantly increased in samples of esophageal adenocarcinoma compared with Barrett’s esophagus.

As author Sebastian Schoppmann (MedUni Vienna) stated: “In this project, we have examined the role of molecular-biological control modules for this tumor occurrence, the so-called miDNA in the affected tissue with the aid of a gene test. Our results show that the miDNA profiles of esophageal cancer are indeed different from Barrett esophagus.”

Furthermore, the research group established that based on the presence of specific miRNAs it is may be possible to estimate whether the existing changes in the mucous membrane of the esophagus will develop into malignant disease. This analysis could aid both risk prediction and cost saving with respect to monitoring the precursor disease.

Sources: Drahos J, Schwameis K, Orzolek LD et al. MicroRNA profiles of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma: Differences in glandular non-native epithelium. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev.doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0161 (2015); Medical University of Vienna press release

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