Scientists reverse precursor to gut cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

Researchers say that they have developed a way of reversing cellular changes in the gut that can lead to a form of gullet cancer.

The changes cause a condition known as Barrett's oesophagus which causes the normally scaly lining of the oesophagus to be replaced by glandular lining, like the inside of the stomach.

Around one in every 100 people diagnosed with the condition will go on to develop the cancer oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

The cancer is becoming more widespread in both the UK and the western world and is eight times more common today than it was 30 years ago.

The origins of Barrett's oesophagus are poorly understood. The study by the MRC Cancer Cell Unit in Cambridge found that it can be triggered by vitamin A and that treating oesophageal tissue with a vitamin A inhibitor reversed the changes.

"This research offers further insight into the cell changes that lead to Barrett's oesophagus," said Dr Julie Sharp, cancer information officer at Cancer Research UK.

"In the future these results may help scientists design new strategies for treating this condition to prevent it from developing into oesophageal cancer."

The research is published in the journal Gut.