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Dr Janusz Jankowski
"This is a very British cancer"
 real 28k

Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Drugs 'may prevent throat cancer'
Anti-inflammatory drugs may combat a common form of cancer
Cancer of the throat may be prevented by anti-inflammatory drugs, researchers believe.

Throat, or oesophageal cancer now affects more than 7,000 people each year in the UK.

The rate of disease is going up more quickly than any other form of cancer.

The cure rate is very poor. Less than 10% of people with oesophageal cancer are still alive five years after diagnosis.

I'm excited that this research has revealed what puts some people at higher risk of developing oesophageal cancer than others

Dr Janusz Jankowski, Birmingham University
People at risk include those who are overweight, and those who suffer from heartburn.

Dr Janusz Jankowski, a Cancer Research Campaign scientist at Birmingham University, believes that inflammation of the foodpipe could be one of the major causes of the disease.

Inflammation is associated with a condition called Barrett's metaplasia which in a small number of cases can develop into oesophageal cancer.

Therefore, drugs to control the inflammation might become an effective way of reducing risk.

Barrett's metaplasia is caused by patches of abnormal cells.

These cells are not cancerous, but can easily be triggered to become so.

Between 1% and 3% of adults have Barrett's - making it one of the commonest pre-cancerous conditions in the Western world.

The UK has the highest rate of all.

Stomach acid

Dr Jankowski, aided by Imperial Cancer Research Fund scientists in London, found that people's genes and the amount of stomach acids and other chemicals inside their bodies contribute to Barrett's metaplasia cells becoming cancerous.

Knowledge of these factors may allow doctors to identify people at high risk, ensuring they get the best possible treatment.

But one of the most significant factors is the amount of inflammation in the foodpipe - triggered by the body's response to the abnormal Barrett's cells.

The amount that the foodpipe inflames may vary from person to person, helping to explain why some people are more likely to develop oesophageal cancer than others.

Dr Jankowski said: "I'm excited that this research has revealed what puts some people at higher risk of developing oesophageal cancer than others.

"By giving these people regular check-ups, doctors could save many lives by detecting the disease before it's had a chance to grow and spread.

"And since inflammation of the foodpipe seems an important factor, treating people with anti-inflammatory drugs might be an effective way of protecting them from cancer."

Inflammation of the foodpipe causes the release of a number of molecules which could increase the ability of cancer cells to grow and spread.

Drugs to control inflammation already exist. However, a preparation specifically to prevent oesophageal cancer is unlikely to be available for a decade.

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