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Investigators uncover intriguing clues to why persistent acid reflux sometimes turns into cancer

DALLAS Aug. 10, 2007 New research from scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center and the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center underscores the importance of preventing recurring acid reflux while also uncovering tantalizing clues on how typical acid reflux can turn potentially cancerous.

In research published in July and August, scientists discovered that people with acid reflux disease, particularly those with a complication of acid reflux called Barretts esophagus, have altered cells in their esophagus containing shortened telomeres, the ending sequences in DNA strands. Combined with related research to be published this month, the findings indicate that the shortened sequences might allow other cells more prone to cancer to take over.

The research supports why it is important to prevent reflux, because the more reflux you have and the longer you have it, the more it might predispose you to getting Barretts esophagus. So you want to suppress that reflux, said Dr. Rhonda Souza, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and lead author of the paper which appears in the July issue of the American Journal of Physiology Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

Heartburn occurs when acid splashes back up from the stomach into the esophagus, the long feeding tube that connects the stomach and throat, causing a burning sensation.

Over time, the persistent acid bath can cause normal skin-like cells in the esophagus to change into tougher, more acid-resistant cells of the type found in the stomach and intestine, a condition called Barretts esophagus, explained Dr. Stuart Spechler, professor of internal medicine and senior author of the paper. Unfortunately, those acid-resistant cells are also more prone to cancer, Dr. Spechler said.

Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, the cancer that is especially associated with Barretts esophagus, is currently the most rapidly rising cancer in the U.S., wit
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Contact: Russell Rian
russell.rian@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
10-Aug-2007


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