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New study provides insight into stomach cancer

Electron micrograph of the H. pylori bacterium.
(Photo: Yutaka Tsutsumi, M.D.)
Electron micrograph of the H. pylori bacterium.

By Veronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, MO – Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have figured out how a bacterium causes stomach cancer.

Study leader Lin-Feng Chen knew from previous research that the bacterium H. pylori produces a protein - CagA - that causes gastric cancer in mice. Another protein, RUNX3, inhibits the development of tumors.

Chen showed that when H. pylori injects CagA into the lining of the stomach, it inactivates RUNX3, opening the door to tumor formation.

The next step, Chen says, is to find a way to stop the process. "If we can prevent the interaction between the RUNX3 and the CagA, so we might be able to find a way to prevent the H. pylori-induced gastric cancer."

Chen says some strains of H. pylori don't respond to antibiotics. He hopes to develop drugs that can prevent stomach cancer in these hard-to-treat cases.

His study is published in the August 2nd edition of the online version of the journal Oncogene.

Stomach cancer

is the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. In the U.S., more than 10,000 people have died of the disease so far this year.