Clonal Selection and Persistence in Dysplastic Barrett's Esophagus and Intramucosal Cancers After Failed Radiofrequency Ablation


OBJECTIVES: Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is used to successfully eliminate Barrett’s esophagus (BE)-related dysplasia or intramucosal carcinoma and aims to cause reversion to squamous epithelium. However, in 20% of cases RFA fails to return the epithelium to squamous phenotype. Follow-up studies show a similar dysplasia recurrence rate. We hypothesize that failed RFA is due to clonally mutated epithelial populations harbored in RFA-privileged sites and that RFA can select for the mutant clonal expansionMETHODS:A longitudinal case series of 19 patients with BE and high-grade dysplasia or intramucosal carcinoma were studied. DNA was extracted from individual Barrett’s glands, deep esophageal glands within mucosal resections and biopsy specimens before and after RFA. Mutations were identified by targeted sequencing of genes commonly mutated in Barrett’s adenocarcinoma.RESULTS:Five patients demonstrated persistent post-RFA pathology with persistent mutations, sometimes detected in deep esophageal glands or neighboring squamous epithelium after several rounds of RFA preceded by mucosal resection. Recurrence of pathology in three other patients was characterized by de novo mutations.CONCLUSIONS:Protumorigenic mutations can be found in post-ablation squamous mucosa as well as in mutant deep esophageal glands; both are associated with dysplasia recurrence. Following RFA, non-dysplastic Barrett’s epithelium can contain mutant clones that are found in a subsequent adenocarcinoma. Ablation may also drive the clonal expansion of pre-existing clones after a “bottleneck” created by the RFA. Overall, recurrence of dysplasia post RFA reflects the multicentric origins of Barrett’s clones and highlights the role of clonal selection in carcinogenesis.

In The American Journal of Gastroenterology volume 108, pages 1584–1592 (2013)