March 13, 2019 – Barrett’s Esophagus


Anchor lead: A new method may predict who might develop esophageal cancer, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Cancer of the esophagus is on the rise, and it has a very poor prognosis. Now a new method of sampling cells from the esophagus developed by Stephen Meltzer and colleagues at Johns Hopkins may help diagnose a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus and identify those at risk.

Meltzer: With the advent of the molecular biomarkers, it’s become a different ball game. And so now we have much higher sensitivities. So the approach is very simple. You just swallow this capsule, it’s about the size of a medicine capsule, and it has a string attached to it. And you wait three minutes for this capsule to dissolve in your stomach, and when that happens a sponge actually comes out, about two centimeters it diameter, and then you pull it out. And you retrieve about 400,000 cells, which you analyze for methylation.  :28

Meltzer says most people have no trouble swallowing the capsule, and although retrieval feels a little strange is not uncomfortable. He hopes to have the method available clinically soon. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.