Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) is the dominant form of esophageal malignancies in the United States and other industrialized countries. The incidence of EAC has been rising rapidly during the past four decades. Barrett’s esophagus (BE) is the main precancerous condition for EAC, where a metaplastic columnar epithelium replaces normal squamous mucosa of the lower esophagus. The primary risk factor for BE and EAC are chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), obesity and smoking. During the BE-dysplasia-EAC sequence, esophageal cells are under a tremendous burden of accumulating reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress. While normal cells have intact antioxidant machinery to maintain a balanced anti-tumorigenic physiological response, the antioxidant capacity is compromised in neoplastic cells with a pro-tumorigenic development antioxidant response. The accumulation of ROS, during the neoplastic progression of the GERD-BE-EAC sequence, induces DNA damage, lipid peroxidation and protein oxidation. Neoplastic cells adapt to oxidative stress by developing a pro-tumorigenic antioxidant response that keeps oxidative damage below lethal levels while promoting tumorigenesis, progression, and resistance to therapy. In this review, we will summarize the recent findings on oxidative stress in tumorigenesis in the context of the GERD-BE-EAC process. We will discuss how EAC cells adapt to increased ROS. We will review APE1 and NRF2 signaling mechanisms in the context of EAC. Finally, we will discuss the potential clinical significance of applying antioxidants or NRF2 activators as chemoprevention and NRF2 inhibitors in treating EAC patients.
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