New Gastric Cancer Target Opens Way for Improved Therapies


Investigators at the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, part of Cardiff University, have noticed they could stop gastric cells dividing and growing by eliminating a particular cell-surface receptor implicated in the function of stem cells.  This discovery could significantly change the paradigm of future treatments.

The prognosis of gastric cancer is very poor, with very few treatment options available to patients, and thus we desperately need new clinical treatments for this disease”, explained Dr.  Toby Phesse.

Many patients present mutations in genes that are involved in the regulation of Wnt – a cell signaling pathway which plays a role in cell division.  It typically drives the development of cancer and the proliferation of the mutated cells all through the body.  Fzd receptors are also frequent.  They transmit Wnt signaling and have been associated with poor prognosis in gastric cancer cases.

Despite this evidence, there is limited research investigating the potential of targeting Wnt receptors as a treatment for gastric cancers.  We aimed to understand the implications of inhibiting Wnt by targeting Fzd receptors and whether this could be used as an effective treatment”, noted Phesse.

By targeting a specific Fzd receptor, Fzd7, the predominant Wnt receptor responsible for the function of stem cells in the stomach and intestine, made the cells unable to respond to Wnt signals and they failed to divide and grow.

The Cardiff professor added: “This information gives us a potential new therapeutic route for gastric cancers, as we could target Fzd7 and consequently inhibit Wnt signaling and tumour growth.  In fact, Vantictumab is a drug known to inhibit several Fzd receptors, including Fzd7, and is currently in clinical trials for the treatment of other cancers – like pancreatic, lung and breast”.

Each year, more than 27,000 people are diagnosed with stomach cancers according to the American Cancer Society.  Most patients are over the age of 65 and statistically, men are almost twice as likely to develop the disease compared to women.