Unmasking Stomach Cancer

Researchers in Japan have found that a layer of cells that appears like normal stomach lining can make it difficult to spot stomach cancer.

AsianScientist (Jul. 19, 2019) – A layer of normal-looking cells may mask the diagnosis of stomach cancer in patients treated for Helicobacter pylori infection, say scientists in Japan. They published their findings in the Journal of Gastroenterology.

H. pylori is a type of bacteria that lives in people’s stomachs and can cause inflammation by injecting a toxin-like substance into mucosal cells lining the stomach. This destruction and regeneration of mucosal cells can lead to the development of stomach cancer.

However, the diagnosis of stomach cancer after H. pylori eradication can be hindered by a layer of cells that appear like normal stomach lining. In this study, scientists led by Professor Kazuaki Chayama at Hiroshima University Hospital discovered that this layer of normal-looking cells is in fact derived from the cancerous tissue itself.

The researchers called the layer of cells ELA, an acronym for epithelium with low-grade atypia, which they found in ten patients who had undergone gastric operations. They observed that the DNA of these ELA cells was identical to that of stomach cancer cells.

These findings could mean that even after getting rid of H. pylori, there is still a risk of stomach cancer for some patients. Chayama stresses that clinicians should be aware of ELA so as to avoid overlooking potential sites of stomach cancer. He also emphasized that it is important for patients to continue having medical checkups even after completing treatment for H. pylori.

The article can be found at: Masuda et al. (2019) Genomic Landscape of Epithelium With Low-grade Atypia on Gastric Cancer After Helicobacter pylori Eradiation Therapy.


Source: Hiroshima University. Photo: Hiroshima University.
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