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Chemotherapy is a critical component of treatment for esophageal cancer patients, according to Johns Hopkins oncology experts who specialize in treatment of the disease. Given with radiation, chemotherapy has been proven to improve patients’ survival rate significantly.

Chemotherapy is also one of the most promising areas of treatment at Johns Hopkins. Our scientists are exploring the link between epigenetic therapy and cancer. In fact, this and other research at Johns Hopkins holds promise to be the next frontier in treating esophageal cancer.

It is that drive to push medicine ever further toward more and more effective treatment for cancer that makes Johns Hopkins the choice for so many patients with cancer, especially those with esophageal cancer.

A personalized approach

At Johns Hopkins, oncologists work with other experts to create a treatment plan that is based on each patient’s diagnosis and case and designed to provide the best possible prognosis.

In fact, patients coming into Johns Hopkins can participate in a multi-disciplinary clinic where all of the doctors who will work with the patient meet to discuss the case and treatment with the patient and the patient’s family.

Because this type of cancer is usually not diagnosed until it has spread beyond the primary tumor site, treatment needs to be immediate and thorough, notes Johns Hopkins thoracic surgeons who specialize in surgery for esophageal cancer. At Johns Hopkins, our experts use chemotherapy and radiation together first to treat both the primary esophageal tumor and any tumor cells which might have escaped to other sites within the body, and then use surgery to remove any remaining tumor in the esophagus. Our experts treat the systemic nature of this disease immediately.

Pushing standards of care every day

Oncologists at Johns Hopkins treat patients based on the groundbreaking work of the physician scientists who came before them and those who are constantly pushing forward the frontiers of treatment today.

Just over a decade ago, it was a doctor at Johns Hopkins who did the research that proved that giving patients chemotherapy and radiation before surgery was more effective, and less physically stressful than after surgery when patients need to recover.

Today, physicians and researchers from Johns Hopkins are leaders in standard-setting organizations like the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, which creates practice guidelines followed by oncologists around the country.

Discovering the next generation of chemotherapy drugs

At Johns Hopkins, oncologists are in the process of creating clinical trials based on groundbreaking research that promises new hope:

Our cancer researchers opened a clinical trial that uses the results of their research on “personalized” chemotherapy. Through the identification of biomarkers that determine how a patient will respond to chemotherapy, clinicians can prescribe a course of chemotherapy that is more likely to work for patients with those biomarkers. In essence, the biomarkers identify the genetic response of the tumor to certain kinds of chemotherapy.

Small molecule drugs block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules involved in tumor growth and progression. In breast cancer, for example, chemotherapy drugs target HER2, a protein that responds to treatment with small molecule drugs. Researchers have found that same protein in esophageal cancer. Through tissue banking (taking small samples from patients to study), they hope to understand if esophageal cancer responds to small molecule drug treatment and if there are other proteins in the cancer that would respond to those drugs as well.

Through its leadership in ECOG, Johns Hopkins is offering patients a clinical trial that treats metastatic esophageal cancer (or cancer that has spread beyond the esophagus).

Epigenetic therapy treats cancer not by killing cancer cells but by reprogramming their patterns of gene expression so that they lose their capacity for uncontrolled growth.

By studying the epigenomes of cancer cells, researchers at Hopkins hope to prescribe chemotherapy regimens for esophageal cancer that cause the epigenomes to turn on genes that fight cancer cells. Researchers are looking at biomarkers on cancer cells to determine if patients have the kind of genes that would respond to this therapy.

For an appointment and answers to your questions

As a leading treatment center for esophageal cancer, Johns Hopkins sees between 50 and 100 newly diagnosed patients a year, providing a depth of experience that assures our patients that they will receive the best possible treatment plan for their diagnosis.

To make an appointment or if you have questions, call 410-933-5420.