Does gut microbiota hold the key to improved diagnosis and treatment of esophageal cancer?

October 22, 2018

(Vienna, October 23, 2018) Oesophageal microbiota may help to improve the diagnosis and management of oesophageal cancer, according to the results of a study presented today. Researchers from Italy directed by Professor Cammarota have found a unique pattern of microbes living in the oesophagus of people with oesophageal cancer or Barrett's oesophagus, which could potentially be used to identify at-risk individuals and pave the way for new types of treatment in the future.

Speaking at UEG Week 2018 in Vienna, Austria, lead researcher, Dr Loris Riccardo Lopetuso from the Catholic University of Rome, Italy, said: "Despite the introduction of novel therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, the prognosis for people with oesophageal cancer remains poor. We need to develop a better understanding of what causes normal oesophageal cells to become malignant so we can find at-risk individuals as early as possible and develop alternative therapeutic strategies."

Oesophageal cancer is the 8th most common cancer worldwide and the 6th most common cause of cancer-related death. Most people present with established disease, so rates of mortality are high in most countries. Known risk factors include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD), obesity, smoking, low fruit/vegetable intake, and alcohol consumption, but other factors, including upper digestive tract microbiota are thought to be involved.

In the study presented today, researchers aimed to characterize the composition of the oesophageal microbiota in patients with oesophageal cancer compared with patients with Barrett's oesophagus and a control group of people with no evidence of the disease. Biopsy samples from six newly-diagnosed patients with oesophageal cancer, 10 with Barrett's oesophagus and 10 controls were analysed for microbiota composition.

A higher level of bacterial diversity was reported for patients with oesophageal cancer compared with the controls; there was a relative abundance of Bacteroidetes and a relative paucity of Firmicutes (different categories of microbiota) in the patients with oesophageal cancer compared with the controls. There were also lower levels of Streptococcus, and higher levels of Veillonella, Porphyromonas, and Prevotella (different types of bacteria) in those with oesophageal cancer compared with Barrett's oesophagus patients and the controls.

"These results indicate that there is a unique microbial signature for oesophageal cancer that might represent a risk factor for this condition," said Dr Lopetuso. "If these findings are confirmed in our further analyses, it may be possible to imagine innovative diagnostic and therapeutic tools to help us manage this condition more successfully."
Notes to Editors

For further information, or to arrange an interview with Dr Loris Riccardo Lopetuso, please contact Luke Paskins on +44 (0)1444 811099 or

About UEG Week

UEG Week is the largest and most prestigious gastroenterology meeting in Europe and has developed into a global congress. It attracts over 14,000 participants each year, from more than 120 countries, and numbers are steadily rising. UEG Week provides a forum for basic and clinical scientists from across the globe to present their latest research in digestive and liver diseases, and also features a two-day postgraduate course that brings together top lecturers in their fields for a weekend of interactive learning.

About UEG

UEG, or United European Gastroenterology, is a professional non-profit organisation combining all the leading European societies concerned with digestive diseases. Together, its member societies represent over 22,000 specialists, working across medicine, surgery, paediatrics, gastrointestinal oncology and endoscopy. This makes UEG the most comprehensive organisation of its kind in the world, and a unique platform for collaboration and the exchange of knowledge.

To advance standards of gastroenterological care and knowledge across Europe and the world, UEG offers numerous activities and initiatives, including:Find out more about UEG's work by visiting or contact:

Luke Paskins on +44 (0)1444 811099 or


  1. Lopetuso LR, Ianiro G, Severgnini M, et al. Characterization of esophageal microbiota in patients with Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. UEG Journal 2018. Presented at UEG Week Vienna 2018.
  2. Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Dikshit R, et al. Cancer incidence and mortality worldwide: sources, methods and major patterns in GLOBOCAN 2012. Int J Cancer. 2015;136(5):E359-86.
  3. Gupta B, Kumar N. Worldwide incidence, mortality and time trends for cancer of the oesophagus. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2017;26(2):107-118.
  4. Engel LS, Chow WH, Vaughan TL, et al. Population attributable risks of esophageal and gastric cancers. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003 Sep 17;95(18):1404-13.
  5. Yang L, Chaudhary N, Baghdadi J, et al. Microbiome in reflux disorders and esophageal adenocarcinoma. Cancer J. 2014;20(3):207-10.

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