Identification of clinically-informative biomarkers within the spectrum of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease in the South African population

Van Rensburg, C. J. (2006-03)

Thesis (PhD (Pathology. Anatomical Pathology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


Patients with chronic gastro-oesophageal reflux disease are predisposed to Barrett’s metaplasia and oesophageal adenocarcinoma. The availability of molecular markers that can objectively identify patients with Barrett’s oesophagus at increased risk of carcinoma is highly desirable. A literature search was conducted to identify potentially useful biomarkers for genotype-phenotype correlation studies in South African patients with Barrett’s oesophagus. The COX-2, c-myb and c-myc genes selected for mRNA expression analysis were analysed in 26 patients with Barrett’s metaplasia (BM) without dysplasia; 14 with Barrett’s oesophagus and dysplasia (BD); 2 patients with Barrett’s adenocarcinoma (BAC); 19 with erosive oesophagitis (ERD); 25 with non-erosive oesophagitis (NERD) and 19 control individuals with a normal gastroscopy and no gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) symptoms. In the BD/BAC group, 69% (11/16) showed increased c-myb mRNA expression compared with 35% (9/26) in the BM group (p = 0.03). A statistically significant difference (p = 0.002) in c-myb expression was also observed between Barrett’s patients (20/42, 48%) and the control groups (9/63, 14%). In the BD patients, 21% (3/14) had increased c-myc mRNA expression compared with none in those with BM (p < 0.05) and BAC. No significant differences in mRNA expression levels were observed between ethnic groups for the genes analysed. In an attempt to determine whether the low expression level of c-myc in the study cohort may be related to possible gene-gene interaction, DNA samples of 199 individuals were subjected to genotyping of the functional GT-repeat polymorphism in the promoter region of the NRAMP1/SLC11A1 gene. Both these genes are involved in iron metabolism and c-myc is known to repress NRAMP1/SLC11A1. Genotype and allele frequencies were similar in all the groups studied with the 3/3 genotype being the most common. However, none of the three above-mentioned BD patients with increased c-myc mRNA expression had the 3/3 genotype. Therefore, although small in number, c-myc-NRAMP1/SLC11A1 interaction may be of adverse significance in patients with allele 2. TP53 mutation analysis was performed on 68 Barrett’s patients, and TP53 immuno-staining on oesophageal biopsy specimens of 55 subjects. Sporadic TP53 mutations were not identified in any of the patients with BM or dysplasia without BAC. Immuno-histochemistry staining of 2+ and 3+ intensity was similar in patients with metaplasia and dysplasia (58%). The low mutation frequency and relative non-specificity of TP53 immunostaining observed in Barrett’s patients seem to preclude its widespread use as a screening tool. TP53 mutation detection may however be useful for risk stratification once dysplasia has been diagnosed, as mutations G245R and D281Y were identified in two patients with BAC. Of the genes studied in the South African population, c-myb represents the most useful marker for early detection of an increased cancer risk in Barrett’s patients. In future, patients with Barrett’s oesophagus may benefit from genetic assessment to complement existing cancer surveillance and treatment strategies.

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