Oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC) is the eighth most common cancer type worldwide with a dismal 5-year survival. Barrett oesophagus, the replacement of the normal squamous epithelia with glandular cells, is the first step in the pathway towards OAC. Although most patients with OAC present de novo, the presence of the easily detectable OAC precursor lesion, Barrett oesophagus, enables the possibility of early detection of high-risk patients who are more likely to progress. Currently, identification of high-risk patients depends on histopathological assessment of dysplasia with no regards to molecular pathogenesis. In the future, screening and risk stratification initiatives for Barrett oesophagus that incorporate molecular profiles might permit improved early diagnosis and intervention strategies with the possibility of preventing OAC. For the majority of patients presenting de novo at an advanced stage, combining so-called -omics datasets with current clinical staging algorithms might enable OACs to be better classified according to distinct molecular programmes, thereby leading to better targeted treatment strategies as well as cancer monitoring regimes. This Review discusses how the latest advances in -omics technologies have improved our understanding of the development and biology of OAC, and how this development might alter patient management in the future.