Providence, RI -- Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital have been awarded a five-year grant of $665,000 from the National Institutes of Health to continue research into how infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria leads to stomach cancer.
Steven Moss, MD, a gastroenterologist and a researcher in the COBRE Center for Cancer Research Development at Rhode Island Hospital, has been studying the link between a protein named p27 and H. pylori, the bacteria associated with stomach ulcers and gastric cancer. He is also working on a vaccine to combat H. pylori.
About a third of patients who undergo endoscopy at Rhode Island Hospital have H. pylori, which is known to be linked to stomach cancer, Moss says.
"It's very frustrating because by the time we diagnose someone with gastric cancer, there's very little we can do about it. Most patients are going to die within five years, so it would be nice to prevent it. It's one of the few cancers in which we can clearly identify a cause that could be preventable," says Moss, who is also an associate professor of medicine at Brown Medical School.
In 2005, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to two scientists who discovered that H. pylori is linked to peptic ulcer disease as well as inflammation of the stomach lining, a first step in the development of gastric cancer.
The bacterium was discovered in the early 1980s, and researchers have since found that certain people and populations are more likely to become infected with the bacteria than others. About 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. population carries the bacteria; it is more common in Central America, China and Japan, as well as in developing countries, or in populations with poor environmental living conditions. Most people acquire H. pylori by the time they are 2 or 3 years old.