Research in Barrett's oesophagus, and neoplastic progression to OAC (oesophageal adenocarcinoma), is hobbled by the lack of good pre-clinical models that capture the evolutionary dynamics of Barrett's cell populations. Current models trade off tractability for realism. Computational models are perhaps the most tractable and can be used both to interpret data and to develop intuitions and hypotheses for neoplastic progression. Tissue culture models include squamous cell lines, Barrett's oesophagus cell lines and OAC cell lines, although it was recognized recently that BIC-1, SEG-1 and TE-7 are not true OAC cell lines. Some of the unrealistic aspects of the micro-environment in two-dimensional tissue culture may be overcome with the development of three-dimensional organotypic cultures of Barrett's oesophagus. The most realistic, but least tractable, model is a canine surgical model that generates reflux and leads to an intestinal metaplasia. Alternatively, rat surgical models have gained popularity and should be tested for the common genetic features of Barrett's oesophagus neoplastic progression in humans including loss of CDKN2A (cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A) and TP53 (tumour protein 53), generation of aneuploidy and realistic levels of genetic diversity. This last feature will be important for studying the effects of cancer-prevention interventions. In order to study the dynamics of progression and the effects of an experimental intervention, there is a need to follow animals longitudinally, with periodic endoscopic biopsies. This is now possible and represents an exciting opportunity for the future.

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