Professor Hugh Barr
In patients with a condition called Barrett’s oesophagus, the cells lining the food pipe change their shape and sometimes begin to grow abnormally. In some people this can turn into oesophageal cancer. Professor Hugh Barr, a surgeon at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is working with others to develop a new technique that can pick up early warning signs that cells have developed abnormalities that put them at higher risk of becoming cancerous.
Using a combination of two sophisticated microscope techniques, Professor Barr will look at a number of different features of oesophageal tissue, including how stretchy it is and its chemical make-up. If he finds characteristics that are linked with the development of oesophageal cancer in people with Barrett’s oesophagus, these techniques could help identify those who are at risk of this aggressive type of cancer. That could give doctors the opportunity to act early and remove the abnormal cells, preventing cancer from developing.
Survival for oesophageal cancer is has seen little improvement over the past few decades and remains hard to treat, so we need to find ways to reduce the number of people affected by the disease. This research could be a step towards that goal.