Importance: Barrett esophagus containing low-grade dysplasia is associated with an increased risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma, a cancer with a rapidly increasing incidence in the western world.
Objective: To investigate whether endoscopic radiofrequency ablation could decrease the rate of neoplastic progression.
Design, setting, and participants: Multicenter randomized clinical trial that enrolled 136 patients with a confirmed diagnosis of Barrett esophagus containing low-grade dysplasia at 9 European sites between June 2007 and June 2011. Patient follow-up ended May 2013.
Interventions: Eligible patients were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to either endoscopic treatment with radiofrequency ablation (ablation) or endoscopic surveillance (control). Ablation was performed with the balloon device for circumferential ablation of the esophagus or the focal device for targeted ablation, with a maximum of 5 sessions allowed.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was neoplastic progression to high-grade dysplasia or adenocarcinoma during a 3-year follow-up since randomization. Secondary outcomes were complete eradication of dysplasia and intestinal metaplasia and adverse events.
Results: Sixty-eight patients were randomized to receive ablation and 68 to receive control. Ablation reduced the risk of progression to high-grade dysplasia or adenocarcinoma by 25.0% (1.5% for ablation vs 26.5% for control; 95% CI, 14.1%-35.9%; P < .001) and the risk of progression to adenocarcinoma by 7.4% (1.5% for ablation vs 8.8% for control; 95% CI, 0%-14.7%; P = .03). Among patients in the ablation group, complete eradication occurred in 92.6% for dysplasia and 88.2% for intestinal metaplasia compared with 27.9% for dysplasia and 0.0% for intestinal metaplasia among patients in the control group (P < .001). Treatment-related adverse events occurred in 19.1% of patients receiving ablation (P < .001). The most common adverse event was stricture, occurring in 8 patients receiving ablation (11.8%), all resolved by endoscopic dilation (median, 1 session). The data and safety monitoring board recommended early termination of the trial due to superiority of ablation for the primary outcome and the potential for patient safety issues if the trial continued.
Conclusions and relevance: In this randomized trial of patients with Barrett esophagus and a confirmed diagnosis of low-grade dysplasia, radiofrequency ablation resulted in a reduced risk of neoplastic progression over 3 years of follow-up.
Trial registration: trialregister.nl Identifier: NTR1198.