International Collaboration Drives Discovery of Link Between Breast/Ovarian Cancer Gene and Stomach Cancer

BETHESDA, Md., Jan. 16, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A team of scientists from the United States and China has discovered new genetic insights that could change the way oncologists treat gastric cancer, the fourth most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in the world. The investigators, who tested hundreds of gastric cancer tissue samples using advanced whole-genome sequencing technology, published their discovery online on January 12 in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

The team of scientists discovered that defects in a gene called BRCA2 might sensitize gastric cancer to chemotherapy. It is well known that certain defects in the BRCA2 gene increase a woman's risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Detection of BRCA2 defects has become a standard clinical assay for these cancers, and a number of newly developed drugs which target the BRCA2 defects are currently available, leading to better therapeutic effects against those cancers. This research now suggests, for the first time, that detection of BRCA2 mutation followed by BRCA2-targeted treatments may also benefit patients with gastric cancer.

The project was funded by the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) as part of its Tissue Bank Consortium in Asia (TBCA) – a collaborative platform that aims to promote and facilitate biospecimen-based international cancer research.

"We are very excited about these results, which could help doctors better assess patients' clinical prognosis and select the most effective therapies for each gastric cancer patient," said Webster Cavenee, Ph.D., one of the senior authors of the research paper and Chairman of the TBCA Steering Committee, who also serves as Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in San Diego.

"Gastric cancer is highly diverse genetically, yet the current treatment approach is essentially 'one size fits all,' which is often ineffective," added Wei Zhang, Ph.D., another senior author of the publication, Director of the Cancer Genomics Core Lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Zhang is also Director of the NFCR Center for Cancer Systems Informatics, where he led scientists on the genomic data analysis for this project. "Our findings represent a critical step towards personalized medicine for gastric cancer patients. Therapies that target the mutations identified in this research may prove to be more effective than the current standard of care."

"NFCR's Tissue Bank Consortium in Asia provides a great platform for international collaborations," said Xishan Hao, M.D., senior author of the paper, President of Chinese Anti-Cancer Association, and Director of Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital (TMUCIH). "The results of this research demonstrate that Chinese scientists can bring significant resources and expertise to international efforts to fight cancer and make impactful contribution to advance cancer research that is very translational and, if validated, could result in clinical benefits for patients very quickly worldwide."

"Gastric cancer is a deadly disease that threatens the lives of people around the world, so we should take a global approach to defeat it through proactive international collaborations," said Franklin Salisbury, Jr., NFCR Chief Executive Officer. "We will continue to support promising collaborative research efforts like this, to accelerate the pace of finding cures for cancer – all types of cancer."

This international research collaboration integrated the resources and expertise from academic and industrial partners from both the U.S. and China, which accelerated the speed of the research.

"We are pleased to be one of the research collaborators of this important international effort," said Scott Patterson, Ph.D., Executive Director of Medical Sciences at Amgen. "NFCR's long-standing efforts in organizing the Tissue Bank Consortium in Asia and other international collaborative efforts have created an excellent model for how to synergistically enhance private-public partnerships in pursuit of cancer research advances. Ultimately, these efforts have the potential to benefit cancer patients worldwide. "

Partners in the international research collaboration included: Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital (China); The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (USA);

BGI (China); The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong); Emory University School of Medicine (USA); Mayo Clinic (USA); Amgen Inc. (USA); Eli Lilly and Company (USA); AbbVie Inc. (USA); Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (USA); Ludwig Cancer Institute (USA); Ohio State University (USA); The National Foundation for Cancer Research (USA); Asian Fund for Cancer Research (Hong Kong); University of Copenhagen (Denmark); and University of Pittsburgh (USA).

About the National Foundation for Cancer Research

The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is a leading cancer research charity dedicated to funding cancer research and public education relating to cancer prevention, earlier diagnosis, better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for cancer. NFCR promotes and facilitates collaboration among scientists to accelerate the pace of discovery from bench to bedside.

Since 1973, NFCR has provided over $320 million in support of discovery-oriented cancer research focused on understanding how and why cells become cancerous, and on public education relating to cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. NFCR scientists are discovering cancer's molecular mysteries and translating these discoveries into therapies that hold the hope for curing cancer. NFCR is about Research for a Cure - cures for all types of cancer. For more information, please visit

About the Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital (TMUCIH)

Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital (TMUCIH) is the birthplace of oncology in China. It has developed into a large and highly specialized cancer facility with integrated patient care, education, training, research, and cancer prevention services. As one of the top cancer centers in China, TMUCIH provides cancer treatment not only to people in China, but to visiting patients from around the world.

In 2004, NFCR funded the establishment of the Joint Tissue Banking Facility in Tianjin, China, in partnership with Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital. The TMUCIH-NFCR Joint Tissue Bank is a biorepository of tumor biospecimens, in which high-quality cancer tissues as well as blood samples are collected and stored with detailed annotations and clinical information. The Joint Tissue Bank is the flagship member bank of the Tissue Bank Consortium in Asia, and has one of the largest collections of clinically annotated tumor tissues and blood samples in the world.

About The Tissue Bank Consortium in Asia (TBCA)

The Tissue Bank Consortium in Asia (TBCA) is a collaboration platform established by NFCR since 2006 that promotes and facilitates biospecimen-based international cancer research. TBCA is governed by an International Executive Steering Committee comprised of leading scientists from top research institutions, cancer hospitals, and industry in the United States and China. It operates in total compliance with the highest international standards for biospecimen collection, storage, and annotation with an English interface for international collaborators to interact with. With TBCA, NFCR has established a new model for public-private partnership and academia-industry collaboration in cancer research across geographic boundaries.

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