Grant supports research to study gastric cancer originsSep. 1, 2022, 9:35 AM
by Tom Wilemon
Two Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers have received $5 million in funding from a new initiative by the National Cancer Institute that aims to define how gastric and gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinomas form and evolve at the cellular level.
Eunyoung Choi, PhD, assistant professor of Surgery, and James Goldenring, MD, PhD, the Paul W. Sanger Professor of Experimental Surgery, are co-principal investigators of one of six teams that were awarded funding through the initiative. Using different approaches, the teams are studying the contributions and fundamental mechanisms of tumor-initiating cells to the development of cancer in the stomach and esophagus.
The Vanderbilt team is focused on cell plasticity, which is how cells change.
They will seek to define cell plasticity in metaplastic cells that are key gastric cancer precursor cells. The scope of their work will include displaying the functional properties and cell lineage conversation capacity of these cells to drive pre-cancerous metaplasia progression to dysplasia and ultimately adenocarcinoma.
The team will address the regulatory mechanisms that control the cell lineage conversion of reparative metaplastic cells toward more aggressive cell lineages that harbor higher oncogenic potential. The study will identify and define the critical transition points in key cell linages that promote evolutions from normal cells to metaplastic cells to dysplastic cells. A better understanding of this process could lead to therapeutic interventions to prevent gastric cancer.
“It is our great opportunity to challenge ourselves to define a true cell origin of gastric cancer and what mechanisms and pathways can control the pre-cancerous cell evolution and diversification to cancerous cells. Successful outcomes from the proposed study will help to design future preventive strategies for patients with pre-cancerous gastric cell lineages,” Choi said.
The $5 million in funding supports their work over a five-year period.
“We are excited to participate in this multi-institutional consortium to tackle how pre-cancerous lesions are generated in the stomach and how they are influenced to progress toward cancer,” said Goldenring, vice chair of Surgical Research, professor of Surgery and of Cell and Developmental Biology.