March 14, 2019 – Better Testing


Anchor lead: Can a new method reduce the increasing numbers of cases of esophageal cancer? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Cancer of the esophagus is a killer, with only about one in five people surviving for five years after diagnosis, according to the American Cancer Society. Now a test combining biomarkers and a novel retrieval method developed by Stephen Meltzer and colleagues at Johns Hopkins may help diagnose a precursor condition called Barrett’s esophagus.

Meltzer: We’ve found that these four markers in our study were, if used in a combined panel, about 80% sensitive and 90% specific in diagnosing Barrett’s esophagus. It’s particularly good when viewed in the context of current screening. :15

Melzer says today, diagnosis comes too late.

Meltzer: People come in for symptoms, and some of those people get endoscopies. It’s a very small fraction of the people with Barrett’s. we estimate there’s somewhere between three and six million people in the United States walking around with Barrett’s. mostly undiagnosed. Only about 350,000 to 400,000 are diagnosed. And the cancers usually occur in the people who aren’t diagnosed with Barrett’s.  :20

At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.