The expression of LGR5, a known stem cell marker, is poorly understood in Barrett’s esophagus (BE) and related neoplasia. The aim of this study was to evaluate LGR5 in BE and related neoplasia and to evaluate its utility as a potential biomarker of progression to advanced neoplasia.
We evaluated total 137 patients, including 119 with BE and 18 with normal gastroesophageal mucosa for expression of LGR5 using RNA in situ hybridization; this also included 28 progressors and 30 nonprogressors. The LGR5 stain was evaluated using 1 qualitative and 2 quantitative parameters, using manual and automated platforms.
Surface LGR5 expression was mainly seen in high-grade dysplasia (12/18) compared with low-grade dysplasia (1/8) and nondysplastic BE (0/17) (P < 0.0001). In contrast to nondysplastic BE, low- and high-grade dysplasia showed a higher percentage of mean number of LGR5-positive crypts per patient (P < 0.0001) and an increase in the mean number of LGR5 transcripts per cell (P < 0.0001). The mean percentage of LGR5-positive crypts per patient and the mean number of LGR5 transcripts per cell were also significantly higher in nondysplastic BE from progressor compared with nonprogressor (P < 0.0001, P = 0.014). The sensitivity and specificity of LGR5 for distinguishing progressor from nonprogressor were 50% and 87%, respectively.
BE-related advanced neoplasia shows an expansion of the LGR5-positive cellular compartment, supporting its role as a stem cell marker in this disease. Quantitative LGR5 expression and surface epithelial reactivity are novel biomarkers of increased risk of progression to advanced neoplasia in BE.