Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal adenocarcinoma is a rare cancer with a high mortality rate. Over the past four decades, it has become much more common in the U.S. and many other high-resource countries, especially among white men. People with the condition known as Barrett’s esophagus are much more likely to develop this cancer. Other risk factors for esophageal adenocarcinoma and Barrett's esophagus include gastroesophageal reflux, cigarette smoking, old age and obesity.

Fred Hutch researchers are working on several fronts to save lives from esophageal cancer. They are identifying the environmental and patient factors that underlie it, investigating biomarkers of inflammation, metabolites and genetics. They are also developing novel biomarker tests that could be used in a doctor’s office to detect Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma without the need to insert an endoscope — a long, flexible tube with a light and a camera — down a patient’s throat. Their goal: to develop effective prevention strategies and reduce mortality rates.  

An esophageal cancer tissue scan.
An esophageal cancer tissue scan. Fred Hutch

Barrett's Esophagus

Understanding Genetic Causes

Barrett's Esophagus

People with a condition called Barrett’s esophagus run a much higher risk of developing esophageal cancer. Our researchers are studying the molecular alterations that occur in Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. We also study the biological and environmental factors that can lead to Barrett’s esophagus. Our scientists are mapping the genomic changes that, over time, transform Barrett’s esophagus into cancer. Our goals are to develop strategies that could prevent esophageal cancer due to Barrett’s esophagus, and to develop novel, biomarker-based screening tests to catch the condition early when it’s more easily treated.

Esophageal Cancer Research

Fred Hutch researchers study the genetic and epigenetic underpinnings of the disease, which may lead to better treatment. (Epigenetics refers to changes in the way genes are turned on or off.) Our research teams are also developing methods for early detection and surveillance of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. And we carry out large-scale population studies to understand why these conditions develop in some people but not others.

We collaborate with investigators around the U.S. and the world to pool data and resources and carry out collaborative studies. One of our major collaborations is through the National Cancer Institute–sponsored Barrett’s Esophagus Translational Research Network, or BETRNet.

Barrett's Esophagus

People with a condition called Barrett’s esophagus run a much higher risk of developing esophageal cancer. Our researchers are studying the molecular alterations that occur in Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. We also study the biological and environmental factors that can lead to Barrett’s esophagus. Our scientists are mapping the genomic changes that, over time, transform Barrett’s esophagus into cancer. Our goals are to develop strategies that could prevent esophageal cancer due to Barrett’s esophagus, and to develop novel, biomarker-based screening tests to catch the condition early when it’s more easily treated.

Understanding Genetic Causes

Our scientists are pinpointing the epigenetic and genetic factors underlying esophageal cancer. This is an important step toward identifying people at highest risk. With this knowledge, doctors can more precisely target prevention, surveillance and treatment efforts. Our researchers have identified a cluster of epigenetic and genetic changes in people with Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. These biomarkers can be used in noninvasive screening and surveillance tests.

Selected Esophageal Cancer Clinical Trials

Clinical research is an essential part of the scientific process that leads to new treatments and better care. Clinical trials can also be a way for patients to get early access to new cutting-edge therapies. Our clinical research teams are running clinical studies on various kinds of esophageal cancer.

See all Esophageal Cancer Clinical Trials

Fred Hutch campus

Our Esophageal Cancer Researchers

Our interdisciplinary scientists and clinicians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat esophageal cancer as well as other cancers and diseases.

Meet Our faculty
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance building

Patient Treatment & Care

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, our clinical care partner, gives patients access to the comprehensive, world-class treatments developed at Fred Hutch.

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