AsianScientist (Jan. 9, 2018) – A research team led by Singapore’s National University Health System (NUHS) and Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Medical School has used genomic technologies to better understand intestinal metaplasia (IM), a known risk factor for stomach cancer. They published their findings in the journal Cancer Cell.
Stomach cancer is the third deadliest cancer in the world, according to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, and claims more than 300 lives yearly in Singapore. The disease is believed to be caused by infection with the microbe Helicobacter pylori, but is potentially treatable if detected early. Unfortunately, more than two-thirds of stomach cancer patients are only diagnosed at an advanced stage.
In this study, the researchers in Singapore analyzed genomic data from close to 3,000 participants of the Gastric Cancer Epidemiology Program (GCEP), recruited with the support of patients and doctors from four local public hospitals (National University Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore General Hospital, Changi General Hospital).
The GCEP project is the cardinal study of the Singapore Gastric Cancer Consortium (SGCC), aimed at discovering more effective ways to treat stomach cancer and produce better patient outcomes, including targeted screening and early detection of the disease.
The researchers found that the genetic analysis of IM helps to identify those with a higher risk of progression to stomach cancer, adding further information to what is available by microscopic examination alone. Patients with IM are six times more likely to develop stomach cancer than those without.
The method used in this study could also help detect patients who are infected with the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which is also linked to the disease. The research team is using this new information to identify biomarkers that can be applied in future in the clinic to identify people who have a high risk of progression to stomach cancer.
“Previous genetic studies on IM have mainly focused on patients who were already diagnosed with stomach cancer but these are limited in their ability to predict who are likely to develop the disease and how the disease will progress,” said Professor Patrick Tan of Duke-NUS Medical School who is a co-lead investigator of the study.
“This new study is the first to comprehensively map out the genetic changes in IM in a cohort of stomach cancer-free subjects, which helps us better predict the possible occurrence and progression of the disease,” he added.
“Our study is the largest series of IM to be studied in detail by genetic analysis. These new findings help us understand why some people have a higher risk of progression to stomach cancer, and allow us to identify those who may benefit from closer follow-up to prevent cancer, or to detect cancer early so that it can be cured,” said Dr. Yeoh Khay Guan, co-lead investigator and Deputy Chief Executive of NUHS.
Source: National University of Singapore; Photo: Shutterstock.
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