The Power of Prevention, Part 5: Grants Support U.S.- China Study

The Power of Prevention Part 5 Grants Support US China Study on Preventing Esophageal Cancer

Researchers in China and at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) are studying precancerous lesions of the esophagus in hopes of devising strategies to prevent esophageal cancer.

The study is funded by an international collaborative research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Principal investigator Tong Chen, MD, PhD, a researcher at the OSUCCC – James, says the grant supplements a previously awarded parent grant from the NIH for studying "Combinatorial Approaches to the Chemoprevention of Esophageal Cancer."

Chen says a type of cancer called esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is among the most common malignancies worldwide, and patients with this disease have a poor prognosis. In the United States, SCC has an overall five-year survival rate of only 13 percent, which is close to the observed survival rates in high-risk countries such as China and other global regions.

Chen believes an association between precancerous lesions and SCC risk suggests that a shift in the grade of these lesions can help evaluate potential agents for preventing the lesions from becoming cancerous.

"Because symptoms of esophageal SCC typically remain absent until tumors are advanced, there is an urgent need to investigate biological changes in the lesions and to identify preventive agents that target those changes," she says.

The researchers are studying the roles of certain biochemical substances, as well as the function of a biochemical effect called oxidative stress, in esophageal lesions in animal models at Ohio State and in humans in China.

Chen says a successful outcome will provide important information and rationale to target these substances and oxidative stress mechanisms in therapeutic strategies for preventing esophageal cancer.

"The grants we have received for this collaborative study are very competitive and meaningful,” Chen says. “We hope this work will open doors for other medical collaborations with China."