Dr Marnix Jansen
Team Guts UK are delighted to announce a brand new project to be led by Dr. Marnix Jansen and his team at University College Hospital London, who have been awarded £49,560 for research into stomach cancer.
Why are Guts UK funding stomach cancer research?
Stomach cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. Very little cancer research spending has been dedicated to stomach cancer, like all cancers of the digestive system. They have been underfunded for decades. This is why four of the six less survivable cancers are digestive (pancreatic, oesophageal, stomach and liver). Digestive cancers often don’t present in the way that more widely recognised cancers do. When most of us think about cancer, we think about lumps, bumps and moles, tangible or visible symptoms. But the typical symptoms for stomach cancer are indigestion, abdominal pain and unexplained weight loss. This means that people are too often diagnosed when the cancer is more advanced and barely treatable.
Unfortunately, emergency presentation (like A&E hospital admission) is the most common route to diagnosing stomach cancer. Stomach cancer simply isn’t diagnosed early enough to be treated successfully.
What is the main known cause of stomach cancer?
The main risk for developing stomach cancer is infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). More than a third of people in the UK have a long-term H. pylori infection. These bacteria settle in the sticky mucus that lines the stomach, causing chronic inflammation of the stomach (gastritis).
In a very small amount of people, this inflammation leads to pre-cancerous cell changes and may develop into cancer. It’s essential to know who is at high risk of these changes taking place, so we can diagnose stomach cancer earlier.
How are tests carried out currently?
At present, those at high risk of developing stomach cancer are invited for tests, where small samples of tissue (biopsies) are taken from the stomach lining. These samples are checked for changes that would indicate progression towards cancer. Some will then undergo regular tests in attempt to diagnose cancer at the earliest stage possible.
What will Dr Jansen’s team explore?
The current method used to take these biopsies is inaccurate and unreliable. Dr Jansen and his team will explore how effective a new, more targeted approach would be by focussing attention on areas of the stomach lining with visible abnormalities. The team will then use cutting-edge techniques to begin understanding the changes in DNA that occur. The more we can understand about these DNA changes, the closer we come to finding a cure.