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1.  A multi-day environmental study of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure in a high-risk region for esophageal cancer in China 
Linzhou, China has one of the highest rates of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in the world. Exposure to carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), such as benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), may play a role in this increased risk. To better understand PAH sources, we measured PAHs in the air and food of 20 non-smokers over multiple days and compared the concentrations to a urinary PAH biomarker, 1-hydroxypyrene glucuronide (1-OHPG). Sampling occurred over four consecutive days. Kitchen air samples (days 2–3) and duplicate diet samples (days 1–4) were analyzed for 14 or more unique PAHs, including BaP. Daily urine samples (days 1–3) were analyzed for 1-OHPG. Mixed-effects models were used to evaluate the associations between air or food PAH concentrations and urine 1-OHPG concentrations. The median kitchen air BaP concentration was 10.2 ng/m3 (inter-quartile range (IQR): 5.1–20.2 ng/m3). The median daily food BaP concentration and intake were 0.08 ng/g (IQR=0.04–0.16 ng/g) and 86 ng/day (IQR=41–142 ng/day), respectively. The median 1-OHPG concentration was 3.36 pmol/mL (IQR=2.09–6.98 pmol/mL). In mixed-effects models, 1-OHPG concentration increased with same-day concentration of food BaP (p=0.07). Though PAH concentrations in air were not associated with 1-OHPG concentrations, the high concentrations of PAHs in both air and food suggest that they are both important routes of exposure to PAHs in this population. Further evaluation of the role of PAH exposure from air and food in the elevated rates of esophageal cancer in this region is warranted.
doi:10.1038/jes.2012.73
PMCID: PMC3504638  PMID: 22805987
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; cancer; China; dietary exposure; inhalation exposure; biomonitoring; multimedia exposure assessment
2.  Serum cytokine analysis in a positive chemoprevention trial: Selenium, Interleukin-2 and an association with squamous preneoplastic disease 
This study represents a multiplex cytokine analysis of serum from a 10-month randomized, controlled trial of 238 subjects that investigated the effects of selenomethionine and/or celecoxib in subjects with mild or moderate esophageal squamous dysplasia. The original chemoprevention study found that among those with mild dysplasia, selenomethionine treatment favorably altered dysplasia grade. The current analysis found that selenomethionine down-regulated IL-2 by 9% (p=0.04), while celecoxib down-regulated IL-7 by 11% (p=0.006) and up-regulated IL-13 by 17% (p=0.008). In addition, an increase in IL-7 tertile from baseline to t10 was significantly associated with an increase in dysplasia grade, both overall (OR=1.47, p=0.03) and among those with mild dysplasia at t0 (OR=2.53 p=0.001). An increase in IL-2 tertile from baseline to t10 was also non-significantly associated with worsening dysplasia for all participants (OR=1.32 p=0.098), and significantly associated with worsening dysplasia among those with mild dysplasia at baseline (OR=2.0 p=0.01). The association of increased IL-2 with worsening dysplasia remained significant in those on selenomethionine treatment who began the trial with mild dysplasia (OR=2.52 p=0.03). The current study shows that selenomethionine supplementation decreased serum IL-2 levels, while celecoxib treatment decreased IL-7 levels and increased IL-13 levels during a 10 month randomized chemoprevention trial. An increase in IL-2 or IL-7 was associated with increased severity of dysplasia over the course of the trial, especially in those who began the trial with mild dysplasia. The favorable effect of selenomethionine on esophageal dysplasia in the original trial may have been mediated in part by its effect on reducing levels of IL-2.
doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-09-0269
PMCID: PMC2900463  PMID: 20587703
chemoprevention; interleukin-2; preneoplasia; gastrointestinal tract; selenium
3.  No role for human papillomavirus in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in China 
Certain regions of China have high rates of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). Previous studies of human papillomavirus (HPV), a proposed causal factor, have produced highly variable results. We attempted to evaluate HPV and ESCC more definitively using extreme care to prevent DNA contamination. We collected tissue and serum in China from 272 histopathologically-confirmed ESCC cases with rigorous attention to good molecular biology technique. We tested for HPV DNA in fresh-frozen tumor tissue using PCR with PGMY L1 consensus primers and HPV16 and 18 type-specific E6 and E7 primers, and in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor tissue using SPF10 L1 primers. In HPV-positive cases, we evaluated p16INK4a overexpression and HPV E6/E7 seropositivity as evidence of carcinogenic HPV activity. β-globin, and thus DNA, was adequate in 98.2% of the frozen tumor tissues (267/272). Of these, 99.6% (95% confidence interval (CI) = 97.9–100.0%) were negative for HPV DNA by PGMY, and 100% (95% CI = 98.6–100%) were negative by HPV16/18 E6/E7 PCR. In the corresponding formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor specimens, 99.3% (95% CI = 97.3–99.9%) were HPV negative by SPF10. By PGMY, 1 case tested weakly positive for HPV89, a noncancer causing HPV type. By SPF10, 2 cases tested weakly positive: 1 for HPV16 and 1 for HPV31. No HPV DNA-positive case had evidence of HPV oncogene activity as measured by p16INK4a overexpression or E6/E7 seropositivity. This study provides the most definitive evidence to date that HPV is not involved in ESCC carcinogenesis in China. HPV DNA contamination cannot be ruled out as an explanation for high HPV prevalence in ESCC tissue studies with less stringent tissue procurement and processing protocols.
doi:10.1002/ijc.25023
PMCID: PMC3069961  PMID: 19918949
human papillomavirus; esophageal squamous cell carcinoma
4.  The Gastric Cardia is not a Target for Human Papillomavirus-induced Carcinogenesis 
Background
Thousands of people in central Asia die every year from gastric cardia adenocarcinoma (GCA). GCA arises in the transformation zone between the esophagus and the stomach, similar to cervical and oropharyngeal carcinoma, which arise in areas with transformation zone characteristics. The analogous biology of the gastric cardia to the cervix and oropharynx, where human papillomavirus (HPV) is known to cause cancer, raises the possibility that GCA could be an HPV-associated cancer. Given the availability of an effective HPV vaccine and its potential to prevent HPV-associated cancer, we decided to evaluate the prevalence of HPV DNA in GCA.
Methods
We collected tumor tissue from 144 histopathologically-confirmed GCA patients at Yaocun Commune Hospital, Linxian, China, with rigorous attention to prevent DNA contamination. We tested for the presence of HPV DNA in fresh-frozen tumor specimens using PCR with sensitive L1, E6, and E7-based primers.
Results
DNA was adequate, as indicated by β-globin positivity, in 108 cases. Of these, all (100%, 95% confidence interval: 97%–100%) were negative for HPV DNA
Conclusions
These results suggest that HPV does not contribute to gastric cardia carcinogenesis in north central China.
Impact
Since GCA does not appear to be an HPV-associated cancer, prophylactic HPV vaccination is unlikely to affect rates of GCA in China.
doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-0089
PMCID: PMC2852466  PMID: 20332262
5.  Aryl hydrocarbon receptor expression is associated with a family history of upper gastrointestinal cancer in a high risk population exposed to aromatic hydrocarbons 
Background
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure is a risk factor for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), and PAHs are ligands of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). This study measured the expression of AhR and related genes in frozen esophageal cell samples from patients exposed to different levels of indoor air pollution, who did or did not have high-grade squamous dysplasia (HGD), and who did or did not have a family history (FH) of upper gastrointestinal cancer (UGI Ca).
Methods
147 samples were evaluated, including 23 (16%) from patients with HGD and 48 (33%) from patients without DYS who heated their homes with coal, without a chimney (a “high” indoor air pollution group), and 27 (18%) from patients with HGD and 49 (33%) from patients without DYS who did not heat their homes at all (a “low” indoor air pollution group). Nearly half (64 (44%)) had a FH of UGI Ca. RNA was extracted and Quantitative-PCR analysis was performed.
Results
AhR gene expression was detectable in 85 (58%) of the samples, and was more than 9-fold higher in those with a FH of UGI Ca (median expression (IQR) -1964 (-18000, -610) versus -18000 (-18000, -1036) Wilcoxon P = 0.02). Heating status, dysplasia category, age, gender, and smoking were not associated with AhR expression (linear regression, all P-values ≥0.1).
Conclusion
AhR expression was higher in patients with a FH of UGI Ca. Such individuals may be more susceptible to the deleterious effects of PAH exposure, including PAH-induced cancer.
doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-1098
PMCID: PMC2796959  PMID: 19690180
Gastrointestinal tract cancer; Esophagus; Aryl hydrocarbon receptor; family history of cancer; gene expression; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
6.  Serum 25(OH)-Vitamin D concentration and risk of esophageal squamous dysplasia 
Background
Squamous dysplasia is the precursor lesion for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), and nutritional factors play an important role in the etiology of this cancer. Previous studies using a variety of measures of vitamin D exposure have reached different conclusions about the association between vitamin D and risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Methods
We measured serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentrations in a cross-sectional analysis of 720 subjects from Linxian, China, a population at high risk for developing ESCC. All subjects underwent endoscopy and biopsy and were categorized by presence or absence of histologic squamous dysplasia. We used crude and multivariate adjusted generalized linear models to estimate the relative risk (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the association between squamous dysplasia and sex-specific quartiles of serum 25(OH)D concentration.
Results
Two hundred and thirty (32%) of 720 subjects had squamous dysplasia. Subjects with dysplasia had significantly higher median serum 25(OH)D concentrations then subjects without dysplasia, 36.5 and 31.5 nmol/L respectively (Wilcoxon two-sample test p = 0.0004). In multivariate adjusted models, subjects in the highest compared to the lowest quartile were at significantly increased risk of squamous dysplasia, RR (95% CI) = 1.86 (1.35–2.62). Increased risks were similar when examined in men and women separately: Men RR (95% CI) = 1.74 (1.08–2.93); Women RR (95% CI) = 1.96 (1.28–3.18).
Conclusions
Higher serum 25(OH)D concentration was associated with significantly increased risk of squamous dysplasia. No obvious source of measured or unmeasured confounding explains this finding.
doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-07-0461
PMCID: PMC2812415  PMID: 17855710
Esophageal cancer; Squamous dysplasia; Vitamin D; Serum 25(OH)D; China
7.  Serum pepsinogens and risk of esophageal squamous dysplasia 
Pepsinogens are a class of endopeptidases that are secreted by the gastric epithelium and released into the circulation. Low serum pepsinogen I (PGI) and low serum pepsinogen I / pepsinogen II ratio (PGI/II ratio) are markers of gastric fundic atrophy, and have recently been shown to be associated with increased risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). We conducted the current study to test whether these markers are also associated with esophageal squamous dysplasia (ESD), the precursor lesion of ESCC.
We measured serum PGI and PGII, using enzyme-linked immunosorbent (ELISA) assays, in 125 case subjects (patients with moderate or severe ESD) and 250 sex-matched control subjects (no ESD) selected from an endoscopic screening study in Linxian, China. We used conditional logistic regression models adjusted for age, smoking, and place of residence to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs).
Serum PGI showed no statistically significant association with ESD, whether analyzed as a dichotomous, ordinal (quartiles), or continuous variable. Lower serum PGI/II ratio, however, showed a dose-response association with increased risk of ESD, with an adjusted OR (95% CI) of 2.12 (1.08 − 4.18), comparing the lowest versus the highest quartile. The association between lower serum PGI/II ratio and log OR of ESD was nearly linear, and the p-value for the continuous association was 0.03.
Lower serum PGI/II ratio was linearly associated with higher risk of ESD. This result is consistent with recent findings that gastric atrophy may increase the risk of ESCC.
doi:10.1002/ijc.23918
PMCID: PMC2605159  PMID: 18844222
Esophageal cancer; Squamous dysplasia; Pepsinogen; China
8.  PROMOTER METHYLATION IN CYTOLOGY SPECIMENS AS AN EARLY DETECTION MARKER FOR ESOPHAGEAL SQUAMOUS DYSPLASIA AND EARLY ESOPHAGEAL SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA 
The incidence of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is very high in northern China. This cancer has a very poor prognosis, mostly because it is usually diagnosed at a late stage. Detection an earlier stage can dramatically improve prognosis. Microscopic evaluation of esophageal balloon cytology (EBC) specimens has been the most common method for early detection of ESCC, but this technique is limited by low sensitivity and specificity. The use of molecular markers may improve these screening characteristics. This study evaluates whether measurement of gene methylation in EBC specimens may have utility for the detection of esophageal squamous dysplasia and early ESCC. We evaluated the presence of methylation in eight genes shown to be methylated in ESCC in previous studies in EBC specimens from 147 patients with endoscopic biopsy diagnoses ranging from normal mucosa through severe squamous dysplasia. Methylation status was determined using quantitative methylation-specific PCR techniques. The sensitivity and specificity of methylation of each individual gene and combinations of these genes to detect biopsy-proven high-grade (moderate or severe) squamous dysplasia was determined. For individual genes, the sensitivities ranged from 9–34% and the specificities ranged from 77–99%. Using a panel of four genes (AHRR, p16INK4a, MT1G, and CLDN3) resulted in sensitivity and specificity of 50% and 68%, respectively. This study suggests that evaluation of gene methylation in EBC samples may have utility for early detection of esophageal squamous dysplasia and early ESCC, however, identification of more sensitive methylation markers will be required for development of a clinically useful screening test.
doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-08-0061
PMCID: PMC2615136  PMID: 19137073
gene methylation; early detection; cytology; esophageal squamous cell cancer

Results 1-8 (8)