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Dr Francesco Boccellato receives a John Fell Fund award to investigate how the stomach lining changes shape during the transition from healthy tissue to cancer.

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. Ludwig Oxford’s Dr Francesco Boccellato 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.

 

Pre-cancerous stomach lining shape changes. The normal stomach lining (gastric mucosa) contains invaginations called glands. Inside the gland there are many types of cells involved in digestive processes. Long-term exposure to infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori causes loss of cells involved in digestion and a reduction of the thickness of the gastric mucosa, a condition known as “atrophic gastritis”. This condition can evolve with the appearance of metaplastic cells, which are cells showing the expression of markers of the intestine (intestinal metaplasia). Atrophic gastritis and intestinal metaplasia are two bacterially driven pre-cancerous conditions. Patients with those conditions are more likely to develop stomach cancer.Pre-cancerous stomach lining shape changes. The normal stomach lining (gastric mucosa) contains invaginations called glands. Inside the gland there are many types of cells involved in digestive processes. Long-term exposure to infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori causes loss of cells involved in digestion and a reduction of the thickness of the gastric mucosa, a condition known as “atrophic gastritis”. This condition can evolve with the appearance of metaplastic cells, which are cells showing the expression of markers of the intestine (intestinal metaplasia). Atrophic gastritis and intestinal metaplasia are two bacterially driven pre-cancerous conditions. Patients with those conditions are more likely to develop stomach cancer.

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