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NEWS | July 18, 2014

UC Davis researcher receives NSFC grant to find new gastric cancer genes

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.)

Luis Carvajal-Carmona © UC Regents
Luis Carvajal-Carmona

No Stomach for Cancer Foundation (NSFC) has awarded cancer geneticist Luis Carvajal-Carmona a $50,000 grant to study the genetic characteristics of gastric cancer. Dedicated to supporting stomach cancer screening, early detection, treatment and prevention research since 2009, NSFC hopes the effort will foster a better understanding of what causes gastric cancer and aid in the development of more targeted treatments.

Gastric cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.

“Discovering new genes is crucial, especially in gastric cancer, which is relatively under-studied,” said Carvajal-Carmona, head of a cancer genomics laboratory in the UC Davis Genome Center and on faculty in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine. Carvajal-Carmona and his gene-hunting team have discovered many cancer-causing genetic mutations and will focus on identifying genetic mutations that cause familial gastric cancers.

So far, only one gastric cancer gene has been identified — the CDH1 gene. The CDH1 causes a form of familial gastric cancer called hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC), but more genetic information is needed to understand other forms of familial gastric cancers.

“Mutations in CDH1 only explain a limited fraction of familial gastric cancer cases,” said Carvajal-Carmona. “We need to discover more gastric cancer genes so that more patients and their relatives with familial forms of gastric cancer can benefit.”

Using cutting-edge DNA sequencing techniques, Carvajal-Carmona will study families from around the world who have hereditary gastric cancers but not CDH1 mutations. He hopes to discover new cancer-causing genes that will help create better genetic testing options.

“Improving our knowledge of cancer biology will lead to early detection and intervention, and ultimately the development of personalized treatments that will improve cancer survival,” he added.