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Dig Dis. 1998 Mar-Apr;16(2):63-80.

Recent developments in the molecular characterization of Barrett's esophagus.

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Gastroenterology Section, Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Palo Alto, Calif., USA.


Barrett's esophagus, or specialized intestinal metaplasia, is a common condition associated with gastroesophageal reflux and an increased risk for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and gastric cardia. Currently, clinical surveillance for early detection of adenocarcinoma relies on the histopathological assessment of dysplasia. In this review we present data from the published literature, and combine this with results from our own research, to address what is currently known about the environmental factors and the molecular changes thought to be important in the pathogenesis of Barrett's esophagus. The most important and well-characterized molecular changes, preceding the development of dysplasia, are alterations in the p53 and erbB-2 genes and aneuploidy. These molecular changes, as well as environmental influences, such as the quality and quantity of gastroduodenal refluxate, may result in abnormal cell proliferation which in turn promotes further genetic abnormalities and deregulation of cell growth. The identification of molecular changes, in the context of predisposing environmental factors, will enhance our understanding of the malignant progression of Barrett's esophagus leading to more effective surveillance and treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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