Esophageal cancer is a particularly aggressive tumor with poor prognosis, however, our current knowledge of the genes and pathways involved in tumorigenesis of the esophagus are limited. To obtain insight into the molecular processes underlying tumorigenesis of the esophagus, we have used cDNA microarrays to compare the gene expression profiles of 128 tissue samples representing the major histological subtypes of esophageal cancer (squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma (ADC)) as well as Barrett's esophagus (BE), the precursor lesion to ADC, and normal esophageal epithelium. Linear discriminant analysis and unsupervised hierarchical clustering show the separation of samples into 4 distinct groups consistent with their histological subtype. Differentially expressed genes were identified between each of the tissue types. Comparison of gene ontologies and gene expression profiles identified gene profiles specific to esophageal cancer, as well as BE. "Esophageal cancer clusters," representing proliferation, immune response, and extracellular matrix genes were identified, as well as digestion, hydrolase, and transcription factor clusters specific to the columnar phenotype observed during BE and esophageal ADC. These clusters provide valuable insight into the molecular and functional differences between normal esophageal epithelium, BE, and the 2 histologically distinct forms of esophageal cancers. Our thorough, unbiased analysis provides a rich source of data for further studies into the molecular basis of tumorigenesis of the esophagus, as well as identification of potential biomarkers for early detection of progression.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.