A Cornell study provides important new insights into a common and deadly type of gastric cancer.
Incidence of this cancer, called gastric squamous-columnar junction (SCJ) cancer, also known as gastroesophageal cancer, rose 2.5 times in the United States between the 1970s and 2000s, while cases of all gastric cancers have decreased by more than 80% since the 1950s. Still, gastric cancers overall are the fifth most common tumors and the third-leading cause of cancer death worldwide.
The study, published Jan. 3 in the journal Nature Communications, identifies a key pathway in gastric SCJ cancers that provides a promising target for future study and therapy.
The researchers found that the progeny of a type of stem cell (Lgr5+) collect in large numbers and promote cancer in areas where two types of stomach tissues meet.
On a global level, gastric cancer, especially gastric squamous-columnar junction cancer, is a very frequent disease and is very unfavorable in terms of prognosis, and so any new development in how the cancer forms and how we can treat it is very exciting." Alexander Nikitin, professor of pathology and leader of the Cornell Stem Cell Program. Dah-Jiun Fu, a doctoral student in Nikitin's lab, is the paper's first author
For the study, Nikitin and colleagues developed an experimental mouse model with two tumor suppressor genes that become inactivated under certain conditions. The model meets several parameters that are necessary for accurate research of this cancer. Previous mouse models used by other research groups had limitations, where mice only developed certain types of tumors or they died prematurely, thereby preventing study. But all the Cornell mice developed relevant forms of metastatic gastric SCJ cancers.
Previous research in Nikitin's lab and at other universities has implicated Lgr5+ stem cells in a number of cancers.
"Our studies show that that's not necessarily true for all types of cancers," Nikitin said. His group found no evidence that Lgr5+ stem cells themselves contributed to gastric SCJ cancers. Related Stories
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