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Millions of Americans experience symptoms of acid reflux or “heartburn” on a daily basis—that burning sensation in the chest that can be accompanied by a number of other unpleasant and sometimes seemingly unrelated symptoms. It’s a problem many people might brush off by popping a Tums, but there’s a darker side to acid reflux, which is that it can be a precursor to esophageal adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that develops in the context of Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the epithelial cells in the esophagus are displaced by tissue that more resembles intestinal tissue.

As a researcher with a background in cancer biology, Kelly Whelan, PhD, from Temple University is interested in further understanding the biology of the esophagus, how certain pathways help it to remain normal under homeostatic conditions, and what goes awry in states of disease, such as cancer and eosinophilic esophagitis, an allergic reaction to food.

She’s also interested in investigating the male and racial bias found in all esophageal diseases, how the type and quantity of a person’s mitochondria could be related to their esophageal disease state, whether or not there are non-invasive ways to determine a patient’s disease state, how to improve therapies for esophageal diseases, how the oral microbiome or even the lower GI tract microbiome could be influencing disease progression, and so much more.

Tune in for all the details.

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