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Am J Pathol. 1988 Apr;131(1):53-61.

Barrett's esophagus. Correlation between mucin histochemistry, flow cytometry, and histologic diagnosis for predicting increased cancer risk.

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Department of Pathology, University of Washington, Seattle.


A predominance of sulfated mucin in the nongoblet columnar cells of Barrett's specialized metaplastic epithelium has been postulated to be a form of mild dysplasia and to indicate an increased risk of adenocarcinoma. Flow cytometry for the analysis of nuclear DNA content and cell cycle parameters has also been postulated to be an objective aid in the diagnosis of dysplasia and carcinoma in Barrett's esophagus. The authors investigated the relationship among sulfated mucin, flow cytometric data, and histologic diagnosis in each of 152 biopsies from 42 patients who had Barrett's specialized metaplastic epithelium. Sulfated mucin, as detected by the high iron diamine-Alcian blue stain, was present in biopsies from 8 of 11 (73%) patients with the histologic diagnosis of dysplasia or carcinoma, in 7 of 9 (78%) patients whose biopsies were indefinite for dysplasia, and in 12 of 22 (55%) patients whose biopsies were negative for dysplasia (P = 0.37). Sulfated mucins predominated in 9%, 22%, and 9% of the patients, respectively (P = 0.56). Abnormal flow cytometry (aneuploidy or increased G2/tetraploid fraction) was found in all patients with the histologic diagnosis of dysplasia or carcinoma, in 3 of 9 (33%) indefinite for dysplasia, and in 1 of 22 (5%) negative for dysplasia (P = less than 0.0001). Neither the presence nor the predominance of sulfated mucin in the specialized metaplastic epithelium of Barrett's esophagus has sufficiently high sensitivity or specificity for dysplasia or carcinoma to be of value in managing patients. Abnormal flow cytometry shows excellent correlation with the histologic diagnosis of dysplasia and carcinoma; it detects a subset of patients whose biopsies are histologically indefinite or negative for dysplasia, but who have flow cytometric abnormalities similar to those otherwise seen only in dysplasia and carcinoma.

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