Scientists are close to uncovering a gene that may influence the risk of oesophagal cancer.
A family in Liverpool, England, is helping Cancer Research Campaign scientists learn more of the genetic basis of cancer of the oesophagus. Twenty one members of this family have died of this cancer over five generations. The disease affects those who also have a mild skin disorder called tylosis.
The researchers are studying 350 members of the extended Liverpool family. Those who have tylosis are assumed to have inherited a faulty gene which also predisposes to cancer of the oesophagus. They are helped with regular screening where the oesophagus is examined by a miniature camera and tissue biopsies taken to reveal any potentially cancerous change. Meanwhile, the search for the gene has been narrowed down to one small area of chromosome 17. Once it's identified, it will shed light upon not just inherited oesophagal cancer, but also the more common forms of the disease. Survival rates in oesophagal cancer are poor - just six per cent after five years for men and seven for women - so there's an urgent need for increased understanding of the condition.