Washington: Oesophageal adenocarcinoma is now the fastest growing form of cancer in the United States, but gastroenterologists at the Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Endoscopy at the University of Rochester Medical Centre (URMC) have been using an innovative technology to detect precancerous cells in time to prevent disease progression.
The WATS3D computer-assisted brush biopsy takes a wide sample of tissue from the oesophagus and then analyses it using a 3-Dimensionial computer imaging system that is based on an algorithm developed as part of the US Strategic Defence Initiative missile defence programme. WATS3D stands for ‘Wide Area Transepithelial Sample.’
URMC gastroenterologist Dr Vivek Kaul, along with gastroenterology fellows Dr Danielle Marino and Dr Donald Tsynman on Sunday in Orlando, Florida, presented new research examining WATS3D at Digestive Disease Week, the world’s largest gathering of physicians and researchers in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery.
“Our study examined patients who have had previous endoscopic therapy for dysplastic Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition that can be a precursor to oesophageal cancer,” says Dr Marino. “In these high-risk patients, the goal is to confirm that all precancerous tissue has been eliminated, in order to prevent recurrence of dysplasia and cancer in the long term.”
Precancerous changes in patients with Barrett’s oesophagus can be difficult to detect because they are often flat and patchy in distribution. The current standard of care for screening patients involves using multiple forceps biopsies to collect samples from the oesophagus, but research has shown that this method is not always accurate or adequate. The WATS3D brush biopsy is designed to overcome the limitations of forceps biopsy by collecting a tissue sample from a wider area within the oesophagus, thus potentially increasing the yield during surveillance tissue sampling.
“In three of the 11 patients included in our study, WATS3D found residual Barrett’s oesophagus after endoscopic therapy that the forceps biopsies had missed,” says Dr Kaul, associate professor of medicine and chief, division of gastroenterology and hepatology at URMC. “We’ve been waiting for a new technology to help us address this important unmet need – the results seen with WATS3D indicate a promising area for further research in the field of Barrett’s oesophagus.”
Dr Vivek Kaul serves on the advisory board of Endo-CDx, manufacturer of WATS3D.
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