News in Gastric Cancer

News from around the world, curated by the Gastric Cancer Foundation.

Gastric Cancer Registry Progress Spurs Five-Year, $9 Million NCI Grant

When the Gastric Cancer Foundation launched the Gastric Cancer Registry at Stanford University in 2011, our hope was that the patient samples housed there would enable early-stage research that could lead to new cures. The registry’s primary investigator, Hanlee Ji, MD, has long believed that data generated from gastric tumor samples could help him and other researchers attract the large grants they need to turn insights into potential therapies—and now he has a major award to demonstrate the value of that model.

Ji, Professor of Medicine at Stanford, is part of a team of researchers awarded a five-year, $9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for a project entitled “Precision Interception of Gastric Cancer Precursors Through Molecular and Cellular Risk Stratification.” Ji is the lead principal investigator with Joo Ha Hwang, MD, PhD, Stanford Professor of Medicine and a specialist in the early detection of gastrointestinal cancers.

The project focuses on a type of precancer called intestinal metaplasia. “This is a lesion that can progress on to cancer, but we don’t know which ones are going to progress,” Ji says. “So the focus of this project is to identify specific markers and cell types that will help identify individuals who face the highest risk of cancer.”

The research team is using registry samples to analyze precursor lesions in stomach cancer patients. Huang and Ji started working together in 2020 to analyze tissue samples in the registry, generating early data that Ji feels was crucial for attracting the NCI grant. The expanded research that will be enabled by the grant, Ji adds, “is very important because it may reveal new types of markers or targets for therapy.”

The Gastric Cancer Registry continues to chart impressive growth. It has added over 130 new patients over the last 15 months. The registry now includes a much larger population of Latinos, Ji says. “That’s relevant because gastric cancer is one of the big killers in Central and South America, and immigrant populations in the U.S. face an elevated risk.” The registry recently partnered with a gastric cancer research group in Brazil, and it is promoting the registry in Mexico and South America.

The diversification of tissue samples will help enrich the Genome Explorer, which allows researchers to generate a wide range of datasets from the clinical samples in the registry. Over 100 new tumor samples have been collected over the last 12 months with a significant number having under genome genomic analysis. This resource has seen over 100 newly enrolled users over the last year. Ji’s team is also working on adding a new type of data called spatial analysis to the Explorer. Using a new instrument that was donated to his lab, Ji’s team is creating two-dimensional models of tumor samples that reveal details about many different types of cells, including structural support cells and immune cells, and how they are positioned in the tumors. “These very specific molecular features can help reveal potential therapies,” Ji says.

Ji adds that the support of the Gastric Cancer Foundation has been vital to the growth of the registry. “The early publications that were supported by the Foundation showed the potential for the registry to enable collaborative research,” Ji says. “We’re all working together to identify new therapeutic targets, and I’m optimistic we will see successes from those efforts.”

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