The American Gastroenterological Association has published a clinical practice update that characterizes postendoscopy esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) and offers recommendations to improve endoscopic detection of dysplastic and neoplastic lesions in patients with Barrett’s esophagus.
While emerging technologies may improve detection rates in the future, short-term progress will depend on human expertise, reported lead author Sachin Wani, MD, of the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora, and colleagues.
Writing in Gastroenterology, Dr. Wani and colleagues noted that EAC incidence has increased sevenfold over the past 4 decades, and 40% of patients with EAC have advanced disease at diagnosis, with a “dismal” 5-year survival rate.
Attempts to catch EAC earlier through Barrett’s esophagus surveillance endoscopy have been generally fallen short, the investigators added. They discussed a variety of obstacles to success, including divergence from recommended screening timelines, nonadherence to the Seattle biopsy protocol, sampling errors, and variability of dysplastic tissue interpretation between pathologists.
“Even in the face of suboptimal impact of current strategies on population-based EAC mortality, medical societies consistently recommend [Barrett’s esophagus] screening and surveillance,” the investigators wrote. “In this context, similar to postcolonoscopy colorectal cancer, the concept of missed EAC is gaining importance in endoscopic Barrett’s esophagus screening and surveillance.”
In the present update, the investigators first aimed to standardize definitions of postendoscopy and interval EAC.
“We propose that postendoscopy EAC be defined as EAC and/or [Barrett’s esophagus]–related high-grade dysplasia identified within a finite time period (typically 1 year) following a nondiagnostic endoscopy,” the investigators wrote. “Interval EAC may be defined as EAC or [Barrett’s esophagus]–related high-grade dysplasia diagnosed after a negative screening or surveillance endoscopy before the date of the next recommended test.”
The latter definition, the investigators noted, was written with acknowledgment of emerging, noninvasive, nonendoscopic screening tools.
Next, Dr. Wani and colleagues dove deeper into the incidence of postendoscopy EAC in the Barrett’s esophagus population. Across multiple cohort studies and meta-analyses, incidence within 1 year of screening endoscopy ranged widely, from 3% to 25%. Data from Barrett’s esophagus patients undergoing endoscopic eradication therapy suggest that incidence of postendoscopy EAC may be greatest within 1-2 years of complete eradication of intestinal metaplasia; one meta-analysis involving 22 studies reported that the risk of EAC was 92% higher within the first year of eradication, compared with subsequent years.
“These data support that high-grade dysplasia/EAC identified within 1 year after complete eradication of intestinal metaplasia likely represents missed and/or incompletely treated prevalent disease rather than recurrent or incident neoplasia,” the investigators wrote.
In support of this conclusion, Dr. Wani and colleagues drew upon data from colorectal cancer screening programs, which suggest that 89% of postcolonoscopy colorectal cancers “may be avoidable, attributable to technical endoscopic factors, compromised decision-making, and administrative factors.”
Regulatory agencies measure quality of colorectal cancer screening programs with adenoma detection rate, which has been shown to correlate inversely with colorectal cancer and mortality; but no analogous measure has been established for Barrett’s esophagus screening. Candidate quality markers include neoplasia detection rate and dysplasia detection rate, though more work is needed to confirm their reliability.
“While easier to measure, compared to postendoscopy EAC rates, neoplasia detection rate remains a surrogate endoscopy quality marker in Barrett’s esophagus surveillance, while postendoscopy EAC rates serve as a true outcome measure that matters clinically,” the investigators wrote.
Dr. Wani and colleagues proposed four clinical strategies that may immediately improve quality of Barrett’s esophagus screening.
- First, they recommended “assiduous identification and photo-documentation of esophageal landmarks” coupled with lesion descriptions that adhere to Prague and Paris classification schemes, along with resection or referral upon identification.
- Second, they called for consistent use of high-definition white-light endoscopy and virtual chromoendoscopy.
- Third, they suggested that endoscopists “spend adequate time for inspection,” with biopsies taken in accordance with the Seattle protocol.
- Fourth, Dr. Wani and colleagues suggested that all practices conducting Barrett’s esophagus screening and surveillance establish continuously active quality control programs.
The investigators concluded the clinical practice update with a discussion of future directions.
“Prospective trials are needed to evaluate the impact of better dissemination of guidelines and quality indicators, improved endoscopic dysplasia detection using interactive web-based educational tools, advanced imaging techniques with artificial intelligence, and improved sampling modalities that reduce sampling errors,” they wrote. “Finally, increased emphasis is needed on improving training in both the cognitive and procedural aspects of [Barrett’s esophagus] endoscopy through structured educational programs among trainees and practicing endoscopists.”
The study was supported by the University of Colorado department of medicine’s Outstanding Early Scholars Program. The investigators disclosed relationships with Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Ironwood, and others.
SOURCE: Wani S et al. Gastroenterology. 2020 Jul 13.