The progression of Barrett's esophagus to esophageal adenocarcinoma is often characterized by the accumulation of genetic abnormalities. The goal was to evaluate the copy number alterations of several oncogene loci, including 7p12 [epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)], 8q24 (c-myc), and 20q13 in the sequence of no dysplasia-dysplasia-adenocarcinoma of Barrett's esophagus. Fluorescence in situ hybridization with DNA probes for the centromeric region of chromosome 7 and the locus-specific regions of 7p12 (EGFR), 8q24 (c-myc), and 20q13 was applied on 99 brush cytology specimens of patients with Barrett's esophagus with different stages of dysplasia or esophageal adenocarcinoma. Gains (3-4 copies) of chromosome 17, 8q24 (c-myc), and 20q.13 loci were found in the low frequencies in nondysplastic Barrett's esophagus. Their frequencies increased with the stage of dysplasia and reached a high incidence in esophageal adenocarcinoma. Amplification (>4 copies) of at least 1 of the loci was observed in 14% of high-grade dysplasia and increased to 50% in esophageal adenocarcinoma (P = 0.015). The most frequently amplified locus was c-myc (18%), followed by 20q13 (13%) and EGFR (11%) in the high-grade dysplasia/esophageal adenocarcinoma cases. High amplification levels (>10 copies) of the loci were more frequent in esophageal adenocarcinoma (72%) compared with high-grade dysplasia (20%; P = 0.049). Amplifications of the c-myc, EGFR, and 20q12 loci may serve as diagnostic markers to identify patients with Barrett's esophagus with high-grade dysplasia or esophageal adenocarcinoma. Gains of the loci might be of value as prognostic markers because they are already present in nondysplasia cases and may precede the later event of the amplification as observed in high-grade dysplasia and esophageal adenocarcinoma.
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