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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2002 Mar 20;94(6):422-9.

The effect of selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibition in Barrett's esophagus epithelium: an in vitro study.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Mayo Graduate School of Medicine, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



Individuals with Barrett's esophagus, in which the normal squamous esophageal epithelium is replaced with a columnar mucosa, are at increased risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma. Mucosal injury may be involved in the progression to neoplasia via the synthesis of prostaglandins and other mediators of inflammation. Cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 is the rate-limiting enzyme involved in prostaglandin synthesis. We examined the effect of inhibiting COX-2 activity in Barrett's esophageal cells.


Primary esophageal epithelial and fibroblast cell cultures were established from endoscopic biopsy specimens from 20 consecutive patients with Barrett's esophagus. COX-2 expression and activity were determined on pooled cell cultures by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) enzyme immunoassay, respectively. Proliferation was measured by Ki-67 staining. PGE(2) levels were determined in supernatants from epithelial cells treated with the selective COX-2 inhibitor NS-398, proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin 1beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha), and conditioned medium from fibroblast cultures (both unstimulated and stimulated with proinflammatory cytokines).


Esophageal epithelial cells and fibroblasts expressed COX-2 messenger RNA. Compared with control-treated cells, NS-398 decreased proliferation of Barrett's esophageal epithelial cells by 55% (95% confidence interval = 47.1% to 63.8%; P<.001) and decreased COX-2 activity. The addition of exogenous PGE(2) reversed the antiproliferative effect of NS-398 on Barrett's esophageal epithelial cells. Proinflammatory cytokines did not affect COX-2 activity in esophageal epithelial cells but stimulated COX-2 activity in fibroblasts. However, conditioned medium from unstimulated and stimulated fibroblasts increased COX-2 activity in esophageal epithelial cells.


COX-2 is functionally active in Barrett's esophagus because treatment with the COX-2 inhibitor hinders proliferation of Barrett's esophageal epithelial cells in culture, but proliferation is restored by treatment with prostaglandin. These results raise the possibility that inhibition of COX-2 may have chemopreventive potential for Barrett's esophagus.

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