Background & aims: Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma remains a leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Squamous dysplasia, the accepted histological precursor for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, represents a potentially modifiable intermediate end point for chemoprevention trials in high-risk populations.
Methods: We conducted a randomized, controlled trial of selenomethionine 200 microg daily and/or celecoxib 200 mg twice daily (2 x 2 factorial design) among residents of Linxian, People's Republic of China. Subjects had histologically confirmed mild or moderate esophageal squamous dysplasia at baseline. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy was performed before and after a 10-month intervention. Per-subject change (regression, stable, or progression) in the worst dysplasia grade was defined as the primary end point. Results were compared by agent group (selenomethionine vs placebo; celecoxib vs placebo).
Results: Two hundred sixty-seven subjects fulfilled all eligibility criteria, and 238 (89%) completed the trial. Overall, selenomethionine resulted in a trend toward increased dysplasia regression (43% vs 32%) and decreased dysplasia progression (14% vs 19%) compared with no selenomethionine (P = .08). In unplanned stratified analyses, selenomethionine favorably affected a change in dysplasia grade among 115 subjects with mild esophageal squamous dysplasia at baseline (P = .02), but not among 123 subjects with moderate esophageal squamous dysplasia at baseline (P = 1.00). Celecoxib status did not influence changes in dysplasia grade overall (P = .78) or by baseline histology subgroup.
Conclusions: After a 10-month intervention, neither selenomethionine nor celecoxib inhibited esophageal squamous carcinogenesis for all high-risk subjects. However, among subjects with mild esophageal squamous dysplasia at baseline, selenomethionine did have a protective effect. Although it is based on unplanned stratified analyses, this finding is the first report of a possible beneficial effect for any candidate esophageal squamous cell carcinoma chemopreventive agent in a randomized controlled trial.