D organoid culture systems can model the esophageal stratified squamous epithelium.•
Esophageal organoid creation is possible from normal, dysplastic and cancer tissues.•
Induced pluripotent stem cells model esophageal development and differentiation.•
Patient-derived organoids provide a platform for screens and personalized medicine.
Three-dimensional (3D) organoids are a novel tool to model epithelial cell biology and human diseases of the esophagus. 3D organoid culture systems have been utilized to investigate the pathobiology of esophageal cancer, including both squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Additional organoid-based approaches for study of esophageal development and benign esophageal diseases have provided key insights into esophageal keratinocyte differentiation and mucosal regeneration. These investigations have implications for the identification of esophageal cancer stem cells, as well as the potential to halt malignant progression through induction of differentiation pathways. Patient-derived organoids (PDOs) from human tissue samples allow for unique and faithful modeling of esophageal cancers, and provide an exciting platform for investigation into personalized medicine and targeted treatment approaches, as well as new models for understanding therapy resistance and recurrent disease. Future directions include high-throughput genomic screening using PDOs, and study of tumor-microenvironmental interactions through co-culture with immune and stromal cells and novel extracellular matrix complexes.