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How does the reduction in stomach acid help progression of cancer?

  • Researcher: Professor Mark Pritchard
  • Institution: University of Liverpool
  • Award Amount: £198,467 for 3 years from March 2013
  • Cancer Type: Stomach Cancer
How does the reduction in stomach acid help progression of cancer?

Stomach cancer is a common and life-threatening disease, which nearly always develops in people who have had a long-term infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. One of the pre-cancerous stages of the disease is called "atrophy" which destroys some of the acid-producing cells in the stomach. As a result, the pH within the stomach becomes higher than normal, making it less acidic and more alkaline (known as hypochlorhydria). Studies in mice have shown that this elevated pH allows other microorganisms, such as bacteria, to start growing in the stomach, where they would not normally survive. It is believed that the presence of these bacteria contributes to the development of cancer within the stomach. Curiously, however, long-term use of acid-suppressing drugs does not have the same effect. Professor Pritchard is therefore going to use his new Worldwide Cancer Research grant to study the stomach environment in mice that develop cancer following Helicobacter pylori infection, in the hope that the studies will identify molecules that indicate those people who are more likely to develop cancer. If he identifies such molecules, these could be used to develop a better screening programme for patients who may be at risk of developing stomach cancer.

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