Targeted Therapy Makes Inroads in Gastroesophageal Cancer

Christin Melton, ELS
Published: Thursday, Dec 15, 2016
Johanna C. Bendell, MD

Johanna C. Bendell, MD

Gastroesophageal cancer (GEC) is a complex disease, encompassing cancers with different histological and molecular subtypes. Growing insight into the molecular biology of GEC is poised to change the treatment landscape for this disease, although many questions remain unanswered.

Classes of targeted agents that have shown promise for GEC include monoclonal antibodies, antiangiogenic agents, and immunotherapy drugs. Some targeted therapies, such as trastuzumab (Herceptin) and ramucirumab (Cyramza), have already been approved for certain types of GEC.

Four Subtypes Identified

To add context to recent developments in managing GEC, it helps to understand the different cancer subtypes and their geographic distribution. Although GEC is rare in the United States, it is relatively common in Asian countries.1

Ian Chau, MD, FRCP, noted that gastric cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in Asia and the second most common cause if esophageal cancer is included.

Esophageal cancer is divided into 2 histological subtypes: squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) and adenocarcinoma (EAC). Whereas ESCC is the predominant subtype in Asia and developing countries, EAC accounts for most US cases of esophageal cancer.2
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