Dr Oliver Shutkever
Department of Pathology, University College London
Title of the project: Chromosomal copy number alterations in gastric intestinal metaplasia as a potential biomarker for risk of progression to gastric cancer
Project Supervisor: Dr Marnix Jansen
Despite considerable advances in treatment, stomach cancer is often lethal, and less than twenty percent of people with the condition in the UK will be alive five years after their diagnosis. For many patients, by the time they develop symptoms, such as weight loss or difficulty swallowing, the cancer is too advanced for curative therapy to be successful.
People with inflammation of the stomach – ‘gastritis’ – are at greater risk of developing the condition. It is possible to check for cancer in these individuals by regularly inspecting the stomach with a camera and taking small samples of stomach lining. This is unpleasant for patients and, as only a minority of them will get cancer, it would be extremely useful to be able to identify those at greater risk, so that patients at lower risk do not go through repeated invasive procedures.
We are trying to predict the risk of developing stomach cancer by examining DNA in different parts of the stomach. DNA carries the information needed for all the cells in the body to function normally, and we believe that greater differences between DNA sequences in different parts of the stomach may be associated with an increased risk of cancer. Our findings may help us to develop a marker of cancer risk, as well as providing valuable insights into the biology of the disease, which may aid the development of treatments or even strategies to prevent the development of cancer.
My participation in this project has given me the opportunity to be involved in cutting-edge basic science which, unusually, has direct implications for patient care. I believe that we can substantially reduce the burden placed on individuals and society by diseases like stomach cancer by reducing the chance of disease developing, and by maximising the chances of an early diagnosis.
Winning the Dr Falk Guts UK funding award will allow me to develop as a clinical academic with a focus on the biology of cancer and other diseases. There are now a huge number of different methods for investigating disease processes at the molecular level, but a considerable amount of experience in practical lab skills and data analysis is required to utilise them effectively. I hope to gain some of this experience by working on this projectDr Oliver Shutkever