During stomach cancer development, the lining of the stomach changes from its normal, healthy shape to cancer. These shape changes can be seen by studying tissue samples taken during an endoscopy under a microscope.
Stomach cancer has two precancerous stages – atrophic gastritis and intestinal metaplasia – each of which also have distinctive changes in tissue shape. This reshaping is predictive of cancer development and can be used to assess cancer risk.
Despite being able to recognise these changes, we do not understand how these tissue alterations occur. Dr Francesco Boccellato (Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Oxford) has been awarded £37,500 from the University’s John Fell Fund to discover and map the molecular drivers of tissue reshaping. His team will test the action of the signalling molecules they identify using their advanced culture model of the stomach lining called ‘mucosoids’.
This additional knowledge will not only enhance stomach cancer diagnosis and risk assessment but may also provide an opportunity for early therapeutic intervention in the future.