The incidence of both esophageal adenocarcinoma and Barrett's esophagus, a premalignant condition predisposing to this cancer, is rising rapidly. There is growing evidence that both of these conditions are related to the reflux of acid and bile into the esophagus. This results in inflammation and cell damage which initiates a sequence of events termed the metaplasia-dysplasia-carcinoma sequence in which the squamous epithelium is replaced by columnar epithelium exhibiting increasing degrees of dysplasia and overt malignancy. This sequence of events is underpinned by changes in cell cycling, such as accumulation of p16 and p53 mutations and increased cyclin D1 activity. Progression along this pathway is characterized by changes in intercellular adhesion, in particular, loss of adenomatous polyposis coli, reduced cadherin expression and increased catenin phosphorylation resulting in its nuclear translocation. Herein, we detail these molecular defects and propose how they may interrelate in an ordered progression in the development of esophageal adenocarcinoma.
Copyright 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel