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.

Researchers & Patient Treatments

Dr. Veena Shankaran

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.

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Patient Treatment & Care

At Fred Hutch, our interdisciplinary teams work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our aim is to provide patients access to advanced treatment options while getting the best cancer care.

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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.

Gastroesophageal Junction

Gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma is a rare type of cancer of the esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. It starts in the gastroesophageal (GE) junction, the area where the esophagus and stomach join together.

Gastroesophageal Junction Clinical Trials

Metastatic Esophageal Cancer

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood. The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. 

Metastic Esophageal Clinical Trials

HER2+ Esophageal Cancer

HER2 is a gene that can produce too much of a protein that fuels cancer growth. About one out of five people with esophageal and stomach cancer have HER2-positive tumors, and the gene can also play a role in many other cancers, including breast cancer.

HER2+ Clinical Trials

MAPK Pathway-Altered Malignancies

The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway plays a role in the regulation of gene expression, cellular growth, and survival. Abnormal MAPK signaling may lead to increased or uncontrolled cell proliferation and resistance to apoptosis. Research into the MAPK pathway has shown it to be important in some cancers.

MAPK Pathway-altered Clinical Trials

See all Esophageal Cancer Clinical Trials

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.

Barret'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.

Latest Esophageal Cancer News

Dedicated supporters at the Heart of the Hutch Using creativity and passion to support Fred Hutch research in good times and bad January 18, 2023
New study identifies genetic changes in patients who progress to esophageal cancer Findings in precancerous Barrett’s esophagus a step toward improved screening, prevention April 28, 2022
Fred Hutch Evergreen Fund awards six grants to promising projects Scientists receive up to $200K to boost research for projects deemed to have partnership potential September 22, 2020
‘Finding their calling’: Cancer caregivers join larger cause after helping loved ones Some family caregivers devote their lives to that larger work, shifting the health care landscape September 13, 2016