A genetic abnormality in people with cancer of the esophagus might guide physicians in
diagnosing and treating such patients and could become an indicator of cancer recurrences,
report researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
The scientists found that in tumor tissue from 48 of 52 people with adenocarcinoma of
the esophagus, a gene that encodes a tumor-suppressing protein called APC had been shut
down. In contrast, the gene remained active in all the samples of esophageal tissue taken
from 20 volunteers without cancer, the researchers report in the Nov. 15 Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The gene encoding APC is inactivated, or silenced, in esophageal-tumor cells when the
gene's promoter—nearby DNA that normally switches the gene on—becomes disabled. The culprit
is hypermethylation, a chemical process in which extra methyl molecules latch onto the