Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 63, Issue 8, pp 2042–2051 | Cite as

Histology of Barrett’s Metaplasia: Do Goblet Cells Matter?

  • Robert OdzeEmail author


This review has provided a summary of the biology of goblet cell metaplasia in CLE as it pertains to BE. Goblet cells are terminally differentiated nonproliferative cells that have many overlapping histochemical characteristics with mucinous columnar cells and pseudogoblet cells. There is an abundance of evidence that suggests that use of goblet cells as a biomarker of BE, and its progression to malignancy, is problematic. Some of these limitations include the fact that the background non-goblet epithelium in most patients with CLE is biologically intestinalized and contains molecular abnormalities similar to goblet cell CLE, goblet cells fluctuate with time and decrease in number with progression of neoplasia, and pathologists have problems with interpretation, and distinction, of goblet cells from other types of cells in the esophagus. Sampling error results in sensitivity and specificity issues that limit its positive predictive value. Goblet cells are fewest in number in the same population of patients with CLE that are hardest to detect endoscopically (i.e., those with short or ultrashort CLE). Nevertheless, the risk of cancer in patients with short-segment BE, a condition difficult to distinguish from the stomach, is very low regardless of the presence or absence of goblet cells so it is unclear what the role of goblet cells is in these patients as a biomarker. Nevertheless, if the answer to the following question, “Would you as a gastroenterologist recommend surveillance for a patient with clear endoscopic evidence of CLE, particularly if it is ≥ 3 cm in length, but in which goblet cells were not reported to be present by the pathologist,” is yes, then the US requirement for goblet cells as part of the criteria for “BE” is superfluous.


Barrett’s esophagus Goblet cells Dysplasia GERD Columnar lined esophagus Biopsies Pseudogoblet cells 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pathology Department, Brigham and Women’s HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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