Oesophageal cancer is a devastating disease with poor outcomes and is the sixth leading cause of cancer death worldwide. In the setting of resectable disease, there is clear evidence that neoadjuvant chemotherapy and chemoradiotherapy result in improved survival. Disappointingly, only 15%–30% of patients obtain a histopathological response to neoadjuvant therapy, often at the expense of significant toxicity. There are no predictive biomarkers in routine clinical use in this setting and the ability to stratify patients for treatment could dramatically improve outcomes. In this review, we aim to outline current progress in evaluating predictive transcriptomic biomarkers for neoadjuvant therapy in oesophageal cancer and discuss the challenges facing biomarker development in this setting. We place these issues in the wider context of recommendations for biomarker development and reporting. The majority of studies focus on messenger RNA (mRNA) and microRNA (miRNA) biomarkers. These studies report a range of different genes involved in a wide variety of pathways and biological processes, and this is explained to a large extent by the different platforms and analysis methods used. Many studies are also vastly underpowered so are not suitable for identifying a candidate biomarker. Multiple molecular subtypes of oesophageal cancer have been proposed, although little is known about how these relate to clinical outcomes. We anticipate that the accumulating wealth of genomic and transcriptomic data and clinical trial collaborations in the coming years will provide unique opportunities to stratify patients in this poor-prognosis disease and recommend that future biomarker development incorporates well-designed retrospective and prospective analyses.

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