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Dioxin, esophageal adenocarcinoma and the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor

By Anonymous December 11, 2009 - 6:01pm
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I am wondering if dioxin activates the protein on a cell causing it to multiply and cause esophageal cancers or any digestives cancers. Any info regarding the EGFR would be appreciated. My late husband tumor tested positive for the EGFR.


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HERWriter Guide

Hi Anon - Thanks for writing back. You lost your husband at such a young age. I'm glad you were there for him, and that we can be here for you.

All human beings have growth factors that affect our cells. You're no doubt aware that cancer is a complex variety of diseases that stem from abnormal cell growth. EFGR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) is one of the many types of growth factors found in our cells. A growth factor, according to the dictionary of biology, is any of various chemicals, particularly polypeptides, that have a variety of important roles in the stimulation of new cell growth and cell maintenance. They bind to the cell surface on receptors. Specific growth factors can cause new cell proliferation (epidermal growth factor, insulin-like growth factor, haemopoietic growth factor) and the migration of cells (fibroblast growth factor) and play a role in wound healing (platelet-derived growth factor; PDGF). Some growth factors act in the embryonic stage of development; for example, nerve growth factor stimulates the growth of axons and dendrites from developing sensory and sympathetic neurons. It is thought that some growth factors are involved in the abnormal regulation of growth seen in cancer when produced in excessive amounts.

I've found a chemistry reference which explains this in more detail and may be helpful in better understanding the process.


I'm not sure if I'm answering your question, as you may be trying to get to the exact cause of your husband's cancer. His oncologist, and experts in the oncology field, are better able to help you with that answer. Unfortunately, with cancer, there are often a lot of unresolved questions.

The best way I know how to help you is to let you know that I personally have a form of leukemia that's caused by a gene mutation. I now understand the chemical process that caused it. I will never know exactly why that process took place, nor will my oncologist. I've made peace with that, which has helped me move forward with living. I hope my answer will help you find some peace too. Will you please let me know?

Take care, Pat

December 21, 2009 - 6:00pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you Pat for your reply. My husband had just turned 55 when he started having problems with hiccups and then swallowing. After testing, he was found to have esophageal adenocarcinoma. He did not have acid reflux, GERD, or Barretts. There also is no history of cancer in his family. He was a healthy white male, not overweight, nor did he drink but did smoke cigarettes. He, like many vietnam veterans, was exposed to dioxins. My husbands doctor said that he had a very aggressive cancer. Even with the surgery, chemo, and radiation the cancer continued to spread to his other digestive organs. He lived less than two years after diagnoses.

I've read about the EGFR but can find nothing that explains where this receptor/protein comes from. Do you have any idea?

December 21, 2009 - 4:39am
HERWriter Guide

Hi Susan - I'm sorry to hear of your loss, and appreciate that you'd like to learn more about your husband's cancer.

Nearly every organ of the digestive system is susceptible to developing cancer. The types of digestive cancers include colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, throat cancer and tongue cancer.

Esophageal cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the esophagus, the tube that transports food from the throat to the stomach.

There are two main types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma. Squamous cell cancer arises from the cells that line the upper part of the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma arises from glandular cells that are present at the junction of the esophagus and stomach.

Cancer occurs when cells in the body (in this case esophageal cells) divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread.

The cause of esophageal cancer is unknown. The known risk factors include:

* Age: 60 or older
* Sex: male
* Smoking or smokeless tobacco use (such as chewing tobacco or snuff)
* Alcohol use
* History of gastroesophageal reflux , especially if this has caused Barrett's esophagus
* Achalasia (chronic dilation of the esophagus)
* Infection with Helicobacter pylori (causes stomach ulcers )
* Certain rare genetic conditions such as Plummer Vinson syndrome and tylosis
* Damaged esophagus from toxic substances, such as lye
* History of cancer of the head and/or neck
* Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection

The Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor is defined as follows by the National Cancer Institute: The protein found on the surface of some cells and to which epidermal growth factor binds, causing the cells to divide. It is found at abnormally high levels on the surface of many types of cancer cells, so these cells may divide excessively in the presence of epidermal growth factor. Also called epidermal growth factor receptor, ErbB1, and HER1.

You can find additional information here:



An article published by the National Institutes of Health addressed why dioxin is harmful and may answer some of your questions. It can be found here:


This is a lot to absorb, so you may have more questions. Please feel free to write back and we would be happy to assist you and do more research.

Take good care,

December 11, 2009 - 6:52pm
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