Southampton experts discover link between throat cancer and heartburn

Daily Echo: Tim Underwood, MRC clinician scientist at the University of Southampton and Oesophageal Surgeon at Southampton General Hospital Tim Underwood, MRC clinician scientist at the University of Southampton and Oesophageal Surgeon at Southampton General Hospital

SOUTHAMPTON scientists may have found a way to diagnose throat cancer earlier after discovering its link to heartburn.

An international study, including University of Southampton researchers, have identified two problems that signal early onset oesophageal cancer.

Heartburn, otherwise known as acid reflux, damaged cells in the oesophagus that, if untreated, can lead to a condition called Barrett's oesophagus which can turn cancerous.

Barrett's is very difficult to diagnose, making it difficult to identify people who are at higher risk of developing cancer.

But by comparing samples from patients with Barrett's and patients with throat cancer, scientists believe they have discovered mutations that show when Barrett's will become cancer.

Tim Underwood, MRC clinician scientist at the University of Southampton and Oesophageal Surgeon at Southampton General Hospital, said: “This is a landmark study into the genetic basis of why and how some people with Barrett's oesophagus get oesophageal cancer and others do not.

"It is still early, but we very much hope that this information will lead to a game-changer for a cancer with one of the worst outcomes.

“This study also tells us that we may need to look outside the cancer itself to find the next generation of treatments. We are leading this research in Southampton by focussing on disrupting the interaction between cancer cells and normal cells around the tumour that appear to support cancer growth.”

And a new test that is still being developed could be used to spot when Barrett's will develop.

The cytosponge, or 'sponge-on-a-string' test, involves swallowing a capsule attached to a piece of thread.

Inside the capsule is a sponge and, when the capsule reaches the stomach, the outer covering of the capsule dissolves. When pulled out, the sponge collects cells for testing as it passes up the oesophagus.

The University of Southampton, working with University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, provided the second largest amount of samples to the study.

Oesophageal cancer is the thirteenth most common cancer in the UK with around 5,600 men in the UK developing it every year and 2,750 women.

The study was funded by Cancer Research UK's Catalyst Club.

Nell Barrie, head of science information at Cancer Research UK, added: “Food getting stuck when you swallow and persistent heartburn aren't normal. If you notice these, or other unusual symptoms, you should see your GP. It probably won't be cancer, but it's essential to get checked out.”

Comments (5)

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6:49pm Sun 22 Jun 14

mickey01 says...

it is great when you read about these finds , you hear about the n. h .s and all you think about is the wards nurse etc but forget that behind the scenes there are people working on things like this that can only benefit us in the future
it is great when you read about these finds , you hear about the n. h .s and all you think about is the wards nurse etc but forget that behind the scenes there are people working on things like this that can only benefit us in the future mickey01
  • Score: 17

7:10pm Sun 22 Jun 14

Lone Ranger. says...

mickey01 wrote:
it is great when you read about these finds , you hear about the n. h .s and all you think about is the wards nurse etc but forget that behind the scenes there are people working on things like this that can only benefit us in the future
Yes you are right ...... but most of them for a pittance
[quote][p][bold]mickey01[/bold] wrote: it is great when you read about these finds , you hear about the n. h .s and all you think about is the wards nurse etc but forget that behind the scenes there are people working on things like this that can only benefit us in the future[/p][/quote]Yes you are right ...... but most of them for a pittance Lone Ranger.
  • Score: 12

7:37pm Sun 22 Jun 14

mickey01 says...

Lone Ranger. wrote:
mickey01 wrote:
it is great when you read about these finds , you hear about the n. h .s and all you think about is the wards nurse etc but forget that behind the scenes there are people working on things like this that can only benefit us in the future
Yes you are right ...... but most of them for a pittance
you are right too the pen pushers seem to get the wages but these guys deserve the glory
[quote][p][bold]Lone Ranger.[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]mickey01[/bold] wrote: it is great when you read about these finds , you hear about the n. h .s and all you think about is the wards nurse etc but forget that behind the scenes there are people working on things like this that can only benefit us in the future[/p][/quote]Yes you are right ...... but most of them for a pittance[/p][/quote]you are right too the pen pushers seem to get the wages but these guys deserve the glory mickey01
  • Score: 12

11:47pm Sun 22 Jun 14

Mrs DS says...

Yet more amazing work by the Southampton Oesophago-gastric team. Would be great if the Echo and other papers would stop insisting on referring to oesophageal cancer as Throat cancer. The 2 are quite different.
Yet more amazing work by the Southampton Oesophago-gastric team. Would be great if the Echo and other papers would stop insisting on referring to oesophageal cancer as Throat cancer. The 2 are quite different. Mrs DS
  • Score: 10

9:46am Mon 23 Jun 14

robich says...

Oesophageal cancer (NOT throat cancer) may be number 13 amongst cancers but is the 5th greatest cancer killer of men in UK taking, on average one person an hour!

Southampton does have a great oesophagogastric team from researchers, surgeons, medics, nurses and receptionists. And we have the biggest patient support charity for anyone affected by acid reflux and its possible consequences.

If anyone has any concerns or wants to know more, please visit the charity's website, www.BarrettsWessex.o
rg.uk and everyone is welcome to attend the free public lecture at Southampton General Hospital this Wednesday between 6:00 and 8:00pm when the main talk is being given by one of Tim's colleagues, Jamie Kelly.
Oesophageal cancer (NOT throat cancer) may be number 13 amongst cancers but is the 5th greatest cancer killer of men in UK taking, on average one person an hour! Southampton does have a great oesophagogastric team from researchers, surgeons, medics, nurses and receptionists. And we have the biggest patient support charity for anyone affected by acid reflux and its possible consequences. If anyone has any concerns or wants to know more, please visit the charity's website, www.BarrettsWessex.o rg.uk and everyone is welcome to attend the free public lecture at Southampton General Hospital this Wednesday between 6:00 and 8:00pm when the main talk is being given by one of Tim's colleagues, Jamie Kelly. robich
  • Score: 7

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