DURHAM, N.C., -- An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to classify stomach cancers, and researchers say it may be an important step toward designing more effective treatments and improving long-term survival.
Stomach (gastric) cancer is particularly prevalent in Asia and represents the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.
The research is based upon clinical findings from patients in Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom and represents the largest genomic analysis of gastric cancers to date. The new system classifies gastric cancers by the signaling pathways the tumors use to grow and spread, as opposed to the more traditional approach that describes them by cell type or structure.
The findings, appearing online in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Genetics, come from a group of scientists at the DukeNational University of Singapore Graduate Medical School in Singapore.
"We identified three oncogenic pathways that were activated in over 70 percent of the gastric tumors we examined," said lead author Chia Huey Ooi, PhD, Research Fellow in the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. "We also found that combinations of these pathways are significantly related to patient survival."
Stomach cancer is notoriously resistant to chemotherapy and newer biologic-based therapies have not proven very effective. With current treatments, less than a quarter of patients live longer than five years after surgery.
Study authors say the new classification system offers physicians the opportunity to stratify patients according to their tumors' pathway profiles and then apply the treatment that is designed to interrupt the signals those pathways use.
"These findings may give us the first way to truly offer our gastric cancer patients personalized medicine," says Patrick Tan, MD, PhD, the senior author of the study and a member of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School
|Contact: Michelle Gailiun|
Duke University Medical Center