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Researchers Zero In on GI Cancers
Date:1/14/2009

resulting in a net savings of $604 million.

The study was led by Dr. Veena Shankaran, a postdoctoral fellow at the Veterans Administration Center for the Management of Complex Chronic Care and Northwestern University's Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chicago. It was funded by ImClone Systems Inc., which makes Erbitux.

A second set of researchers reported that people with specific mutations in the epidermal growth factor (EGF) gene and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) have an increased risk of cancer of the esophagus.

Chronic GERD affects some 20 million Americans and is a known risk factor for esophageal cancer, which is on the rise.

A variant of the EGF gene known as G/G was associated with nearly twice the risk of developing esophageal cancer when compared with the A/A "wild type" -- or normal form -- of the gene, but only in individuals with GERD. The apparent danger was magnified when the GERD was more severe, the study found.

Overall, those without significant GERD had a lower risk and those with more GERD had almost 10 times the risk. Those who had GERD more than once a week or who had had GERD for more than 15 years had almost 22 times the risk, the researchers said.

"These findings indicated to us that there was indeed an interaction of some sort between the EGF gene and GERD in the esophagus," said study author Dr. Winson Y. Cheung, a clinical research fellow at the University of Toronto and the Harvard School of Public Health. "This could have important clinical implications for screening."

A third group of researchers, from Germany, found that the drug Sandostatin LAR (octreotide LAR) can slow tumor progression in patients with malignant neuroendocrine tumors of the midgut (the lower part of the small intestines), a rare form of cancer.

Currently, there are few effective therapies for this type of cancer.

"The median time to tumor progres
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