Esophageal Cancer Study (ESO)

Esophageal Cancer Study

The Molecular Epidemiology of Esophageal Cancer study began in 1999 as a collaboration between Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health. Data is collected from esophageal cancer patients receiving care at Massachusetts General Hospital. Non-relatives of these patients (like spouses and/or friends of patients), may serve as comparisons, also called a control group. Analysis on blood or cheek cells is performed at a Harvard molecular epidemiology lab. We expect to enroll 1000 people in total.

The Research

  • Environmental factors including work exposures (such as asbestos), diet, and smoking may contribute to disease. We want to learn more about how these factors, alone or in combination, may affect esophageal cancer development.
  • We want to learn more about how genetic (inherited) factors may affect both the risk and prognosis of esophageal cancer, why some patients respond differently to treatment, and how these inherited factors coupled with environmental ones may affect risk.

We conduct risk analyses for susceptibility to esophageal cancer, as well as outcome and survival analyses. Currently analyses of over 1500 polymorphic variants across multiple pathways are being performed for both risk and survival aspects of this study.


Anyone who receives care (surgery or treatment) at Massachusetts General Hospital for a primary esophageal cancer (not an esophageal cancer metastasized from another site) is eligible to participate. Healthy family members (non-relatives like spouses) and friends may participate as controls (comparisons) in the study.

After signing a consent form, your participation involves filling out one questionnaire on lifelong health, work, and diet history. This questionnaire gathers historical data on as many possible exposures that may be linked to esophageal cancer. A Food Frequency Questionnaire is also given to assess your diet within the past year. These forms take about an hour to complete. A biologic specimen (about 3 tablespoons of blood, or a cheek swab) will also be taken. Control participants (healthy volunteers who serve as comparisons) receive compensation of up to $50 after completion of all study requirements.

No specific individual genetic results will be given; data is analyzed at an aggregate level and anonymized to protect confidentiality. Participation is completely voluntary and will not affect care received at the hospital. After signing the consent form you can choose to decline further participation, and may withdraw completely from the study at any time.