Sarah Cannon - August 10, 2020

Here is what you should know about the latest advancements in both the research and the treatment of esophageal cancer.

Risk factors for esophageal cancer

Common risk factors for esophageal cancer are tobacco and alcohol use. Links have also been found between adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and obesity, which is a risk factor for esophageal cancer as well as many other types of cancer.

While esophageal cancer can occur for a number of reasons, research continues to advance in determining genetic drivers of the cancer. Researchers have found that certain genetic mutations are more commonly connected to people who have been diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus, which is a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid. Doctors can determine which patients need proactive monitoring and which patients can be examined less frequently, based on the likelihood of Barrett's esophagus cells becoming cancerous.

Advancements in esophageal cancer treatment

Treatment continues to advance as researchers determine the best treatment approaches for each patient's specific diagnosis of esophageal cancer.

Currently, researchers are working to determine whether combining a set of chemotherapy drugs is more effective than just one chemotherapy drug alone. Additionally, clinical trials researching new types of drugs and drug combinations are underway.

Targeted therapies that may interfere with proteins found in esophageal tumors are also being investigated, and clinical trials may be available using one or more types of drug.

Immunotherapy may be given in some esophageal cancer cases. Pembrolizumab is approved for certain tumors that have specific changes including microsatellite instability or high levels of a protein called PD-L1.

To learn more about esophageal cancer treatment, clinical trials, and survivorship, visit What is Esophageal Cancer? on the Sarah Cannon website, and call askSARAH at (844) 482-4812 to speak to a nurse who is specially trained to help with your cancer questions.