March 15, 2019 – Who’s at Risk


Anchor lead: If we find out who’s at risk for esophagus cancer we may be able to help, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that often precedes development of esophageal cancer, with its dismal survival statistics. Stephen Meltzer and colleagues at Johns Hopkins have developed a novel method to screen people for Barrett’s using biomarkers and a cell sampling technique. Meltzer hopes this test may soon help identify those at risk.

Meltzer: It’s known that the highest risk population is white, male, obese, you may or may not have reflux symptoms. There’s some anecdotal evidence that Barrett’s actually is an adaptive response. And may protect in some cases against symptoms. Sometimes you get the history from a patient that they had heartburn thirty years ago, and then it disappeared but more recently they had trouble swallowing. That’s a very ominous sign. Trouble swallowing in the context of heartburn a long time ago could mean that there’s a cancer.  :31

Meltzer notes that few of the millions of people with Barrett’s have actually been diagnosed. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.