Chronic heartburn can damage the lining of the esophagus, leading to a condition known as “Barrett’s esophagus”. Patients with Barrett’s esophagus have a much higher chance of developing cancer of the esophagus.
Until recently, the only way to diagnose Barrett’s esophagus was through endoscopy an uncomfortable and time-consuming procedure. However, a swallowable sponge under development in the United Kingdom allows for quick and painless diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus in a doctor’s office. The team led by Drs. Lincoln Stein and Tony Godfrey aim to supplement this test with genomic technologies, allowing doctors to follow patients over time to identify and treat those progressing to cancer. Early detection, treatment and even prevention of these cancers could save the healthcare system over $300 million a year.