Although Barrett’s metaplasia of the esophagus (BE) is the only known precursor lesion to esophageal adenocarcinomas (EACs), drivers of cellular transformation in BE remain incompletely understood. We use an artificial intelligence–guided network approach to study EAC initiation and progression. Key predictions are subsequently validated in a human organoid model, in patient-derived biopsy specimens of BE, a case-control study of genomics of BE progression, and in a cross-sectional study of 113 patients with BE and EACs. Our model classified healthy esophagus from BE and BE from EACs in several publicly available gene expression data sets (n = 932 samples). The model confirmed that all EACs must originate from BE and pinpointed a CXCL8/IL8↔neutrophil immune microenvironment as a driver of cellular transformation in EACs and gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinomas. This driver is prominent in White individuals but is notably absent in African Americans (AAs). Network-derived gene signatures, independent signatures of neutrophil processes, CXCL8/IL8 expression, and an absolute neutrophil count (ANC) are associated with risk of progression. SNPs associated with changes in ANC by ethnicity (e.g., benign ethnic neutropenia [BEN]) modify that risk. Findings define a racially influenced immunological basis for cell transformation and suggest that BEN in AAs may be a deterrent to BE→EAC progression.


Pradipta Ghosh, Vinicius J. Campos, Daniella T. Vo, Caitlin Guccione, Vanae Goheen-Holland, Courtney Tindle, Guilherme S. Mazzini, Yudou He, Ludmil B. Alexandrov, Scott M. Lippman, Richard R. Gurski, Soumita Das, Rena Yadlapati, Kit Curtius, Debashis Sahoo


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