LgR5 expression and cancer stem cell hypothesis: clue to define the true origin of esophageal adenocarcinomas with and without Barrett's Esophagus?
The alarming rise in the incidence of esophageal adenocarcinomas in the Western world has focused interest on so-called Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is characterized by specialized intestinal epithelium replacing the normal squamous epithelium in the distal esophagus and is considered a consequence of long-lasting and severe gastroesophageal reflux disease. A metaplasia-dysplasia-carcinoma sequence links Barrett's esophagus with adenocarcinoma of the distal esophagus (Barrett's cancer). Despite intensive research, many questions concerning the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of Barrett's esophagus and associated adenocarcinoma are still unanswered. Based on current data, the malignant progression of Barrett's esophagus cannot be substantially prevented by medical or surgical therapy for reflux. Although no firm data are available to show that surveillance strategies can reduce overall mortality from Barrett's cancer, early detection and cure are possible. Management of Barrett's esophagus and carcinoma is reviewed with reference to the sequence of disease from metaplasia to carcinoma.