Esophageal cancer research is critically underfunded; despite incidence and mortality rates

October 22, 2014

The overall death rate from cancer in the United States has fallen 20% from its peak in 1991. Breast cancer death rates have dropped 27% from 1990 to 2005 and colon cancer death rates, which have been declining for 20 years, fell about 30% from 2000 to 2010. These great developments are thanks, in part, to nationwide public awareness campaigns, improvements in early detection methods and billions of dollars in research funding.

Unfortunately, as these cancer death rates have fallen, esophageal cancer has increased so much that it is now the fastest growing cancer in the United States.

Esophageal cancer is also among the deadliest of cancers, with an overall five-year survival rate of only 17.5%. Esophageal cancer’s survival rate is especially daunting as compared to breast cancer and colon cancer’s five-year survival rates of 89.2% and 98.9%, respectively.

There are major disparities in esophageal cancer research funding, both from the government and private funders.

The National Cancer Institute decreased its investment in research of esophageal cancer by 15% in 2012; esophageal cancer research receives a mere $28.0 million out of NCI’s total $5.07 billion budget; that’s approximately half of one percent.

While The American Cancer Society reports that they currently fund 1,165 cancer research projects, only 8 of those research projects are related to esophageal cancer.

In the past three years, The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation has been approached by 13 medical research facilities from across the United States, requesting funding for their research projects dedicated to esophageal cancer.

Disparities in cancer research funding, especially pertaining to esophageal cancer research, which gets just a tiny slice of the cancer research pie, is not something new. In 2009 “a CBS News analysis of data released by the American Cancer Society reveals a large disparity in funding for different types of cancer.”

“Declines are concentrated among the cancers that receive the most research funding, while some of the fastest growing cancers are getting little publicity or funding,” CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports in a CBS News Article.

Researchers from the Biological Sciences Department at California State University studied the research funding distribution for different cancers in the United States. They analyzed research funding based on “burden metrics”, which included incidences, mortalities, economic costs and Years of Life Lost (YLL). What they found was that there are inequities in cancer research funding.

Researchers Ashley JR Carter* and Cecine N Nguyen reported in their article in 2012 that “overfunded cancers include breast cancer, prostate cancer and leukemia; underfunded cancers include bladder, esophageal cancer, liver, oral, pancreatic, stomach and uterine cancer.”

Carter and Nguyen stated in their research article that “we recommend redistribution from overfunded cancers to underfunded cancers to improve the effectiveness of cancer research funding.

Can you imagine how many lives would have been lost if breast and colon cancer did not receive sufficient research funding, if there was little public awareness and if there were no standard screenings to detect these deadly cancers in their earlier stages? Unfortunately, esophageal cancer is facing just that. With little public awareness, no standard or routine screenings and underfunded research projects, esophageal cancer is increasing; over 600% in past decades.

The good news is that you can help change these statistics regarding esophageal cancer by joining our mission to raise awareness and encourage early detection of esophageal cancer.

Spread the word by liking us on Facebook and sharing important news and information concerning esophageal cancer. Donations to The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation are 100% tax deductible, as we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, as recognized by the IRS.

Our mission is to save lives by reducing the number of incidences of esophageal cancer. This can be done not only by encouraging early detection, but through funding research, which explores prevention of esophageal cancer and easier ways to diagnose esophageal cancer at earlier stages.

Unfortunately, esophageal cancer is typically caught in the late stages, as symptoms often arise too late and once the cancer has spread and becomes difficult, if not impossible, to treat and cure.

Did you know that patients who are diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer typically only receive treatments to relieve symptoms in attempts to improve the quality of life before they pass away?  Funding esophageal cancer research will also fuel projects which are working to find new and improved current treatments for those who are diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

In order to meet this life-saving mission, esophageal cancer research needs funding. There is an enormous opportunity for you to save and improve lives. Make a donation to esophageal cancer research efforts by clicking here: Donate today.
 

 

 

Sources:
 
A comparison of cancer burden and research spending reveals discrepancies in the distribution of research funding. Ashley JR Carter* and Cecine N Nguyen. Biological Sciences Department, California State University Long Beach, 17 July 2012, © 2012 Carter and Nguyen; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
The Disparity In Cancer Research Funding.Jonathan M.D.CBS, May 27, 2009.

“There is no one giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps.”

October 20, 2014

When it comes to esophageal cancer, there is so much that needs to be done. We’ve based our charity’s mission on “the big three”: awareness, early detection and research. Those three missions will not only save lives, but will ultimately lead to a cure of esophageal cancer.

Breaking down each part into “how will this mission be achieved” is complex and involves a lot of moving parts. Answering the question is easy; our charity has laid out a plan and knows what needs to be done. The difficulty lies in facing the long road ahead, which is cluttered with many obstacles.

So we ask you, “how do you eat an elephant?”

The elephant, being the mission of raising awareness, encouraging early detection and funding research of esophageal cancer. As the saying goes, “one bite at a time!”

Little steps taken every day in order to ultimately reach the goal of finding a cure. The mission will not be achieved by our charity alone, but requires the help of others. You have the power to make a difference, even if it is a small one.

What can I do to help?

Donate.

It may sound simple but all donations, even $1.00, have the power to make a difference. Your donation in any amount will be used towards our awareness, early detection programs and to directly fund research. Our promise is to never spend your donations frivolously. That means no return address labels, no stickers and no nonsense! We work tirelessly to keep our general operating costs low so that the maximum can go towards fueling the mission and its programs…in hopes of finding a cure for esophageal cancer.  To donate, click here.

Fundraise.

Hosting a fundraiser is a great way to get involved, raise money and spread awareness for the cause! We’ve put together a list of fundraising ideas here. Ask your friends, family and coworkers to help make your fundraiser a huge success. Also, never underestimate the power of social media to spread the message. You can share your fundraiser on our Facebook page, too!

Volunteer.

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation annually hosts an ‘Esophageal Cancer Walk/Run’. The event is held on the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend each June in Rhode Island and brings together a wonderful group of people who support this mission. The event is truly remarkable and we are excited to say that it is growing! Our goal is to keep the momentum going. In order to do so, we need your help. Click here to learn more!

Share Your Story

Provide support to others who are impacted by esophageal cancer by sharing your story. When we talk about our personal experiences with cancer, we are able to inspire hope in others who are going through the same struggles and emotions. Your story can be about yourself or a loved one. Too often, esophageal cancer is ignored and disregarded. It isn’t often heard about in local or national news media, among politicians who govern the health laws which affect cancer patients, other nonprofit health charities, doctors or other medical professionals, etc. Funding for esophageal cancer research is continuously being cut while each year, thousands of patients are diagnosed; a great majority of them losing their battle to esophageal cancer. Every experience with esophageal cancer is unique and all of our stories are important. You have the power to make a difference by sharing your story.

Get social!

Like us on Facebook, tweet us on Twitter, pin with us on Pinterest and follow us out on Instagram!

No matter how big or how small, every action makes a difference in the long run. Peter Cohen once said “There is no one giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps.”


Research findings could provide new insights into esophageal cancer, Barrett’s esophagus

October 20, 2014

Despite previous indications to the contrary, the esophagus does have its own pool of stem cells, said researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in an animal study published online today in Cell Reports.

The findings could lead to new insights into the development and treatment of esophageal cancer and the precancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus.

According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 18,170 people will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the U.S. in 2014 and an estimated 15,450  people will die from it. In Barrett’s esophagus, the lining of the esophagus changes for unknown reasons to resemble that of the intestine, though gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD is a risk factor for its development.

“The esophageal lining must renew regularly as cells slough off into the gastrointestinal tract,” said senior investigator Eric Lagasse, Pharm.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, Pitt School of Medicine, and director of the Cancer Stem Cell Center at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

“To do that, cells in the deeper layers of the esophagus divide about twice a week to produce daughter cells that become the specialized cells of the lining. Until now, we haven’t been able to determine whether all the cells in the deeper layers are the same or if there is a subpopulation of stem cells there.”

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The research team grew pieces or “organoids” of esophageal tissue from mouse samples, and then conducted experiments to identify and track the different cells in the basal layer of the tissue. They found a small population of cells that divide more slowly, are more primitive, can generate specialized or differentiated cells, and have the ability to self-renew, which is a defining trait of stem cells.

“It was thought that there were no stem cells in the esophagus because all the cells were dividing rather than resting or quiescent, which is more typical of stem cells,” Dr. Lagasse noted. “Our findings reveal that there indeed are esophageal stem cells, and rather than being quiescent, they divide slowly compared to the rest of the deeper layer cells.”

In future work, the researchers will examine human esophageal tissues for evidence of stem cell dysfunction in Barrett’s esophagus disease.”Some scientists have speculated that abnormalities of esophageal stem cells could be the origin of the tissue changes that occur in Barrett’s disease,” Dr. Lagasse said. “Our current and future studies could make it possible to test this long-standing hypothesis.”

Source:
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. “Stem cells discovered in the esophagus.” ScienceDaily, 16 Oct. 2014

National Cancer Institute. “SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Esophageal Cancer.”


Heartburn Center of California opens to help combat GERD

October 16, 2014

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a chronic and often progressive disease which affects more than 60 million Americans, that is roughly 1 out of 5 Americans.   If GERD is not properly treated, it can increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

Heartburn is just one of the symptoms associated with GERD.  While billions of Americans experience occasional heartburn at some point in their lives, chronic heartburn, which occurs more than twice a week, could be an indicator of GERD, also known as acid reflux disease.

The Heartburn Center of California is the first of its kind in its region established to combat GERD.

The National Cancer Institute defines GERD as “the backward flow of stomach acid contents into the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach).”

Overtime, this reflux of stomach acids can cause damage to the lining of the esophageal wall and can cause the cells to become abnormal.  This change in the cells, which line the lower part of the esophageal wall, is known as Barrett’s esophagus, another risk factor for esophageal cancer.

First in Kind Heartburn Center of California Established to Combat Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) A chronic and often progressive ailment affecting 1 out of 5 people

First in Kind Heartburn Center of California Established to Combat GERD

Dr. Wilson Tsai, in partnership with Bay Area Surgical Specialists (BASS), announced the opening of this center earlier this week.

For many, acid reflux is managed through the use of medications which suppress acid in the stomach.  While this is effective in treating the symptom of heartburn, damage could still occur to the esophagus.

“PPIs only mask the symptoms of GERD and do not stop acid reflux, which can lead to Barrett’s esophagus and [esophageal cancer] adenocarcinoma,” Bruce Kaechele, founder of RefluxMD.com stated in their article titled ‘Esophageal cancer and PPI use – Is there a connection?

Dr. Wilson Tsai, Program Director at the Heartburn Center of California, stated “medications that reduce the amount of acid in the stomach can be effective in alleviating the burning sensation in the chest caused by GERD” and continued that “for chronic sufferers, this might be masking an underlying structural issue, such as a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES) or hiatal hernia.”

“If these structural issues are treated solely with medications, stomach contents, including bile, can continue to flow back into the esophagus, potentially leading to Barrett’s esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer,” Dr. Tsai stated. 

The Heartburn Center of California will use a “progressive and holistic approach” to work with patients to diagnose the cause of their heartburn, reflux and other symptoms to effectively prescribe a “customized treatment plan.”

Treatment plans are dependent on each patient’s individual diagnosis and could include lifestyle changes, medications or minimally invasive procedures.

The LINX® system, a type of minimally invasive procedure, involves laparoscopic placement of a small, magnetic band around the LES, allowing food and liquid to pass into the stomach but prevents stomach content from flowing back up into the esophagus.

The Heartburn Center of California believes that their holistic and methodical approach to diagnosis and treatment will “contribute to a high success rate in identifying and addressing the root cause of the heartburn, as opposed to just treating the symptoms of this increasingly common ailment.”

The center will also provide “very specialized medical professionals with in-depth knowledge and focused technics in diagnosing and treating ailments that result in Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).”

12874488Linda Molfesi, President of The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation, stated “the problem with GERD as it relates to esophageal cancer is that not enough people understand the dangers of chronic heartburn.  They believe that simply taking an antacid or other medication is solving the problem.   Some take these medications for years; many are advised by their doctors to do so.”

Molfesi continued, “research has shown that damage to the esophagus can continue to occur with the use of PPIs and other medications. Without any standard or routine screening, for many, a diagnosis comes too late, since esophageal cancer typically does not show any symptoms until the cancer has reached an advanced stage.  Many who are diagnosed with esophageal cancer pass away within one year of their diagnosis.”

“It is our hope that more centers, such as the Heartburn Center of California, open across the United States that are interested in treating the actual disease, rather than just the symptoms” Molfesi concluded.

For more information and to read the official press release, please visit: First in Kind Heartburn Center of California Established to Combat Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

 

 

 


Blood test may be beneficial in determining treatments for patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

October 14, 2014

There are two types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.  Squamous cell carcinoma is typically found in the upper to mid section of the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma is usually found in the lower part of the esophagus, near the stomach.

Esophageal adenocarcinoma is the most common type of esophageal cancer in the United States and has increased over 600% in the past decades making it the fastest growing cancer in the US.

Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma is the most prevalent esophageal cancer worldwide.

According to research presented recently at the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s (ASTRO’s) 56th Annual Meeting, a blood test may be helpful in determining “neoadjuvant” treatments for patients who have been diagnosed with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

Neoadjuvant therapies are treatments that are usually given as a first step to shrink a cancerous tumor before the main treatment, which is most often surgery. Some examples of Neoadjuvant therapies are chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

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A blood test may be beneficial in determining which treatments are best for patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

The nine-year study showed that levels of two proteins found in the body can indicate patients’ pathological response and survival rates. Pathological response means how the tumor will be affected when the esophagus is examined after surgery.

“Through the utilization of a specific blood test of serum biomarkers, we could potentially predict if a patient will have a favorable pathological response and outcome before radiotherapy,” said senior study author Jason Cheng, MD, division chief of radiation oncology at National Taiwan University Hospital and professor at National Taiwan University College of Medicine in Taipei, Taiwan.

As one of the deadliest cancers, esophageal cancer has an overall 5 year survival rate of only 17.5%.  Stage IV esophageal cancer has a survival rate of only 3.8%.

Research studies such as this are imperative to modifying treatment plans for patients based on their individual diagnoses. Furthermore, this allows for increased chances of recuperation after surgery, higher survival rates and fewer side effects.

To support life-saving research for esophageal cancer, please donate here.

 

Sources:
Blood Test May Determine Treatment for Esophageal Cancer |EndoNurse 
Neoadjuvant Therapy – NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms |  National Cancer Institute
Esophageal Cancer Treatment & Management Author: Keith M Baldwin, DO; Chief Editor: Jules E Harris, MD, et. Al 

‘Esophageal Cancer is Rare’ But For How Much Longer?

October 8, 2014

“Esophageal cancer is rare.”  Yes, esophageal cancer is rare when compared to other cancers such as lung, breast and prostate.

However, unlike other cancers, esophageal cancer (adenocarcinoma) is the fastest growing cancer in the Western World.

It has increased over 600% in the past decades. While esophageal cancer is currently “rare”, more and more people are becoming affected by this deadly cancer. We predict that if appropriate actions are not taken, esophageal cancer will run rampant and become widespread.

Some researchers say that this tremendous increase in esophageal cancer diagnoses “may be due to an increase in the number of people who develop gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which contents from the stomach, such as acid, move up into the esophagus repeatedly, causing chronic inflammation.” Other risk factors of esophageal cancer include poor diet, obesity, smoking and consuming large amounts of alcohol regularly.

“This rise has been associated with the increase of the obese population, as abdominal fat puts extra pressure on the stomach and causes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Long standing GERD can induce esophagitis and metaplasia and ultimately, lead to adenocarcinoma. Until now, acid suppression has been the main strategy to treat GERD; however, it has not been proven to control esophageal malignancy effectively. In fact, its side effects have triggered multiple warnings from regulatory agencies. The high mortality and fast growth of esophageal cancer demand more vigorous efforts to look into its deeper mechanisms and come up with better therapeutic options.”  (Esophageal malignancy: A growing concernJianyuan Chai and M Mazen Jamal, World J Gastroenterol. Dec 7, 2012; 18(45): 6521–6526.)

Raising awareness of these risk factors associated with esophageal cancer may help to reduce the number of people diagnosed. Also, it is important that people become proactive about their health by eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet which is high in whole foods and low in processed foods, exercising according to their doctor’s recommendation, avoiding all tobacco products, limiting alcohol consumption and for those with acid reflux disease, properly treating GERD.  Awareness of symptoms associated with esophageal cancer is equally as important as knowing the risk factors.

Symptoms can include:

o Dysphasia (difficulty swallowing),
o Chronic heartburn or indigestion,
o Frequent choking while eating,
o Chest pain, pressure or burning,
o Unexplained weight loss,
o Cough or hoarseness,
o Vomiting,
o Coughing up blood.

Often times, esophageal cancer is diagnosed after a person begins to experience any of the symptoms described above. When esophageal cancer is found very early, there is a better chance of recovery. Unfortunately, the majority of patients do not experience any symptoms in the early stages of esophageal cancer. “When most people are diagnosed, the cancer is well advanced.”

This makes esophageal cancer one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Esophageal cancer has an overall 5 year survival rate of only 17.5%. Stage IV esophageal cancer has a survival rate of only 3.8%.  Educating the public regarding the symptoms associated with esophageal cancer and encouraging those who are at risk to seek out screening as early as possible will better the chances of survival for those who are diagnosed.

Lastly, the cure lies in research. Currently, esophageal cancer is among the least funded of all cancers, both from government funding and other charities. The National Cancer Institute decreased its investment in research of esophageal cancer by 15% in 2012. In 2014, The American Cancer Society reports on their website that they currently fund 1,165 cancer research projects; however, only 8 of these projects are for esophageal cancer research.

NIH Funding of esophageal cancer research

Esophageal malignancy: A growing concern, Jianyuan Chai and M Mazen Jamal, World J Gastroenterol. Dec 7, 2012.

Funding research projects which are aimed at improving current prevention techniques and diagnosis methods and treatment options is the key to saving lives and ultimately finding a cure.

Instead of treating esophageal cancer like it is a “rare” cancer, let’s treat esophageal cancer as what it truly is, the fastest growing cancer in the western world. At the rate it is increasing and with the lack of awareness, early detection and research funding, esophageal cancer won’t be rare for long.

 

 

Sources:

cancer.net
cancer.gov
cancer.org
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
aats.org
medicalnewstoday.com
mskcc.org

Wisconsin professor and band director conducts again during esophageal cancer battle”

October 2, 2014

The Lakeland Mirror, by: Austin Anderson. Sept. 25, 2014

Photo by: Breanna Rae Weber “A smiling Cris Werner stands outside of Verhulst at Lakeland College.” lakelandmirror.com

On Sept. 15, Christopher Werner, assistant professor of instrumental music and director of bands [at Lakeland College in Wisconsin], returned from a four-month absence after a battle with early stage esophageal cancer.

Werner began feeling ill during the previous school year when he was unable to eat anything without feeling nauseous. He eventually made an appointment with his doctor.

X-rays were taken of his neck and the culprit was a large tumor lodged in his throat, blocking access to his stomach. The tumor was found malignant, and Werner had to undergo chemotherapy, radiation, and eventually surgery.

He was sent to St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee where he was prepped for a six-hour surgery. The procedure involved cutting out the portion of esophagus that held the tumor and extending a part of the stomach lining to connect it with the throat.

“It was a very severe surgery,” said Werner. Without part of his esophagus, Werner’s voice became hoarse. He was hooked up to a machine that fed him but he still lost weight from chemotherapy. Werner remained in the hospital for one week after the surgery.

“It was scary,” said Werner. “I went through rapid weight loss.”

When he returned to Lakeland, he explained his condition to the concert band at the beginning of class on Sept. 15.

During Werner’s absence, the band still practiced music to be prepared for Werner’s return. Senior instrumental music and performance major Matt Troyer, as well as others, gave the band tips for improvement.

“It is a big relief to see him back,” said Troyer. “I can’t stress enough how pleased I am with Lakeland and how they handled my absence,” said Werner. “They have been just fantastic.”

According to Werner, his battle is not over yet. The chemotherapy side effects will remain for another year. He might have to go back to the hospital for more chemotherapy, but he hopes to get his voice back in time.

At the moment, Lakeland has given him a microphone and speaker to amplify his soft voice.

“I am super excited to have Dr. Werner back and to get this semester started for band,” said Justine Watson, senior studio and graphic art major. “He is an inspiration to many of us.”

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This article has been posted with the permission of The Lakeland Mirror, the student newspaper of Lakeland College in Wisconsin.  “Werner conducts again during cancer battle” was written by:  Austin Anderson, Staff Reporter on September 25, 2014.  Anderson, a junior writing major and staff reporter at the newspaper, details the story of Christopher Werner’s, a professor and band director’s, battle with esophageal cancer.

Esophageal cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the United States and is also one of the deadliest.  Unfortunately, esophageal cancer is often detected late, as there are no routine or standard screenings.  However, when caught early, the chances of survival are much higher.  signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer.

Mr. Werner’s story highlights the importance of early detection.  It is our hope that it will also encourage others to be proactive about their health and provide inspiration to others fighting this cancer.  Thank you to Christopher, Austin and Leah Ulatowski, Editor-in-Chief of the Mirror, for allowing us to reproduce this story!

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