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Case Western Starts $5.4M Esophageal Cancer Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center has reeled in a $5.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study the genetics involved in two types of esophageal cancer.

The five-year grant will fund the Barrett's Esophagus Translational Research Network (BETRNet), which involves several institutes collaborating to understand the basis of this disorder and how it becomes esophageal carcinoma.

The BETRNet projects include discovery of the genes that cause familial Barrett's esophagus, those which become targets of DNA methylation in the disorder and esophageal cancers, and which genes are turned on or off in these cancers.

The long-term goals of the network are to develop new ways to identify individuals at risk for Barrett's esophagus, early detection of the disease, and monitoring the disease to recognize when it is likely to advance to cancer.

Although Barrett's esophagus can be discovered through endoscopy, current methods for endoscopy are inadequate, Case Western said, adding that nearly 40 percent of patients who develop esophageal cancer have no preceding symptoms, such as heartburn. And while the rate of many common cancers has declined in recent years, the rate for esophageal cancer has increased six-fold over the past three decades, according to Case Western.

The BETRNet project will include researchers at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Collaborations such as these between basic and translational scientists and clinical researchers will be essential to unravel the complex interplay between environmental and genetic influences on cancer development," UNC Professor of Medicine Nicholas Shaheen said in a statement.

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