Context Hanahan and Weinberg proposed in 200 that carcinogenesis involves DNA changes that enable cells to provide their own growth signals, ignore growth-inhibitory signals, avoid apoptosis, replicate without limit, sustain angiogenesis, and invade and proliferate in unnatural locations. The metaplastic cells of Barrett's oesophagus are predisposed to develop these cancer hallmarks. Starting point The genetic changes that have been described in Barrett's oesophagus can be categorised according to the predominant cancer hallmark affected. For example, M Auvinen and colleagues recently observed abnormalities in the expression of vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs) in Barrett's oesophagus (J Clin Oncol 2002; 20: 2971-79). These abnormalities can be categorised as those that affect angiogenesis, a process that is essential for the development and progression of tumours. Where next? The cancer hallmarks of Barrett's oesophagus provide a framework to categorise the genetic abnormalities described and to further understanding of the genetic events that underlie oesophageal carcinogenesis.
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