Advancements Needed in the Esophageal Cancer Space

Allan Pickens, MD, discusses the current treatment landscape for esophageal cancer.

Allan Pickens, MD, thoracic surgeon at Emory University, program director for cardiothoracic surgery residencies and the director of Medical Oncology, discusses the current treatment landscape for esophageal cancer.

In the past decade, there has not been much of a change in regard to new procedures and drugs to help treat patients with esophageal cancer.

However, Pickens notes that 1 big advancement has been made in the early detection for esophageal cancer. This includes aggressive screening programs, having better screening programs and opportunities to treat patients with porousness.


0:08 | Esophageal cancer has devastating effects on patients in terms of it being a very lethal tumor. The treatments that we have available for esophageal cancer have not made significant leaps and bounds over the past 10-20 years in the sense that we have not had a lot of new drugs on the market and not a lot of new procedures to combat it. The 1 advancement we have made is in early detection of esophageal cancer, including much more aggressive screening programs for Barrett's dysplasia, and other forms of premalignant lesions that lead to esophageal cancer.

0:51 | In the earlier diagnosis of esophageal cancer, we have better opportunities to treat porousness. If we find something that's contained to the surface or mucosal layer of the esophagus, we can use some of the ablative techniques to take care of it. There's something called endoscopic mucosal resection, where we actually take away a portion of the lining of the esophagus with the tumor contained in it. Those don't interfere with the traditional surgical procedures that we have available. If those fail, we can then do a surgical resection to completely remove a early-stage esophageal cancer. The problem lies when we don't make the diagnosis early and these tumors have grown through the wall of the esophagus into our surrounding structures. This leads to a much worse outcome when it goes to lymph nodes and things that are outside of the esophagus.

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