ORLANDO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Endoscopic therapy is as effective in Barrett’s esophagus patients with early cancer as in those with high-grade dysplasia, according to findings from an international multicenter consortium.

The findings suggest that invasive surgery may be avoidable in many Barrett’s esophagus patients with early cancer, Rajesh Krishnamoorthi, MD, of Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, reported at the World Congress of Gastroenterology at ACG 2017.

Of 276 patients with BE who underwent endoscopic therapy and were included in a prospective database of BE and early esophageal adenocarcinoma (the Endoscopic Eradication Therapy [EET] database), 70 had intramucosal cancer and 206 had high-grade dysplasia. The percentage of patients in each group achieving complete eradication of intestinal metaplasia (CE-IM) was 81.4% and 84%, respectively, and the percentage achieving complete eradication of dysplasia (CE-D) in each group was 88.6% and 89.8%, respectively. The differences were not statistically significant, he said.

Further, after adjustment for age, sex, and Barrett’s esophagus length, there was no statistical difference in the CE-IM rate (hazard ratio, 1.15) or CE-D rate (HR, 1.21) between the two groups.

The rates of recurrent intestinal metaplasia (Re-IM) in the groups were also statistically similar at 43.9% and 34.7%, respectively, said Dr. Krishnamoorthi, whose work received a 2017 Esophagus Category Award at the meeting.

Endoscopic therapy is the treatment of choice for Barrett’s esophagus patients with high-grade dysplasia, and is also used in some cases as a noninvasive alternative to surgery in Barrett’s esophagus patients with intramucosal cancer. However, data comparing outcomes of endoscopic therapy for these two conditions are lacking.

For the current study, all subjects from the EET database of patients from 10 centers in the United States, Europe, and Australia with either intramucosal cancer or high-grade dysplasia who underwent endoscopic therapy since April 2012 were reviewed. The patients were treated with endoscopic mucosal resection if visible lesions were noted, and/or with mucosal ablation for the flat Barrett’s esophagus. Those who underwent at least four esophagogastroduodenoscopies with endoscopic therapy were included.

The median age of the patients was 66 years, 84% were men, and median Barrett’s esophagus segment length was 6 cm. Baseline characteristics did not differ between the groups, Dr. Krishnamoorthi noted.

Although limited by the relatively small number of patients in each study group, by the exclusion of patients who were lost to follow-up, and by the observational nature of the study, the findings could have implications for treatment selection in some patients with Barrett’s esophagus and early cancer.

“In this large well-defined cohort of Barrett’s patients, effectiveness of endoscopic therapy in intramucosal cancer is comparable to that of high-grade dysplasia. Consideration of endoscopic therapy in Barrett’s patients with early cancer could reduce the need for invasive surgery,” he concluded.

During a discussion period, however, it was pointed out that the centers involved in this study are “centers with a lot of expertise in this,” and that the generalizability of the findings to gastroenterology practices is something that should be looked at, especially considering that the diagnosis of intramucosal cancer “may not be uniformly accurate across the spectrum of gastroenterology practices.”

“I completely agree with that,” Dr. Krishnamoorthi said, adding that the diagnosis must be confirmed by a pathologist, and that the procedure should be performed by an endoscopist with extensive experience.

Dr. Krishnamoorthi reported having no disclosures.