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Marker signals esophageal cancer

6:11pm, November 8, 2004

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

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