Oesophageal cancer is one of CRUK’s cancers of unmet need. 5 year survival for this cancer is currently only 15%, influenced by the fact that many oesophageal cancers are detected at an advanced stage when they are harder to treat. One strategy for catching these cancers earlier is to monitor patients with the pre-cancerous condition Barrett’s oesophagus, who are at higher risk of developing oesophageal cancer. Surveillance of this population is performed using endoscopy and diagnosis of cancer involves taking a biopsy during this process. However, endoscopies are invasive procedures and sampling for biopsy may miss regions of progression to cancer.
Elizabeth Bird-Lieberman, a Gastroenterology Consultant in the Translational Gastroenterology Unit (Nuffield Department of Medicine) at the John Radcliffe Hospital (Oxford University NHS Foundation Hospital Trust) has paired up with Prof Deborah Goberdhan from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics to investigate alternative, less invasive ways to monitor for cancer progression. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) in circulating blood could provide a particularly attractive early detection system. EVs are tiny spheres surrounded by a membrane that are released by cells as a way of communicating with each other. There is high diversity between EVs and this research aims to identify cancer-specific and tissue-specific EV biomarkers to enable identification of both Barrett’s and oesophageal cancer-derived EVs in the blood.
Elizabeth and Deborah have received funding from a CRUK Early Detection Primer Award. If you are an Oxford-based researcher thinking of applying for external early detection funding, please get in touch with the OxCODE Scientific Coordinator who can help to coordinate your application.