Combating Increased Incidence in Gastric Cancer Requires More Research Funding
I recently joined representatives from Debbie’s Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer (DDF) to present at a congressional briefing on gastric cancer, Curing Stomach Cancer: the State of Stomach Cancer Research. The briefing, which was sponsored by the AGA, DDF and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS-CAN), was held to update lawmakers and stakeholders on the current state of stomach cancer research and the need for more research funding.
I was joined by Edith Mitchell, MD, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA, and Jaffer A. Ajani, MD, The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, as well as several patient advocates, who discussed their personal experiences or experiences of close family members, with stomach cancer. The patient stories were quite tragic given the low survival level of patients when diagnosed with this deadly cancer.
I presented an overview of basic and translational research on gastric cancer, including findings from the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and mouse models, while other speakers summarized the epidemiology and current state of therapy for advanced disease. While the bleak statistics for stage IV patients was perhaps not unexpected, the message that there are significantly fewer active clinical trials or therapeutic options for gastric cancer patients compared to most other solid malignances resonated with many in the audience.
It was a bit of a surprise for attendees to learn that the incidence of gastric cancer in young patients, under 35 years of age, is actually increasing in the U.S. for unclear reasons. Many congressional staff members are in this age range, and thus took particular notice of this fact. The data on the current state of funding for stomach cancer research is quite startling — stomach cancer is perhaps the lowest (among the top 15 tumors) in terms of dollars per cancer death.
The DDF, along with the AGA, asked congressional staffers to support two initiatives: to ask NCI to increase research resources for stomach cancer and to request that stomach cancer be included as an eligible cancer for research funding by the Department of Defense’s Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program for fiscal year 2015. In terms of the latter, it was interesting to learn that veterans of Desert Storm have been found to have an increased rate of H. pylori infection, which puts them at greater risk for malignancy.
Overall, the Congressional briefing was a success. I was pleased to represent the AGA supporting the DDF in their advocacy efforts for increased funding for gastric cancer research.