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Understanding the origin of Barrett’s Syndrome and how it can develop into oesophageal cancer

  • Researcher: Dr Benjamin Beck
  • Institution: Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
  • Award Amount: £249,868 for 3 years from 1st October 2016
  • Cancer Type: Oesophageal Cancer
Understanding the origin of Barrett’s Syndrome and how it can develop into oesophageal cancer
Dr Benjamin Beck in Brussels is using his Worldwide Cancer Research funding to track down the very first cells which go on to cause oesophageal cancer (cancer of the food pipe).

More than 8,500 new cases of oesophageal cancer are diagnosed in the UK every year- that means over 23 people receive a diagnosis every day.

Barrett’s syndrome is a common condition that can sometimes lead to oesophageal cancer. Scientists already know that during Barrett’s syndrome the cells lining the food pipe change type and shape, but they don’t really know how this can sometimes eventually lead to cancer.

“Understanding exactly how oesophageal cancer starts is the cornerstone of developing new therapeutic strategies to beat the disease,” says Dr Beck.

“In this project we will use state-of-the-art ‘tracing’ experiments in genetically-engineered mice to follow the progress of cells in the food pipe- from the moment early cancer-causing genes are activated to the point full-blown tumours develop.”

Dr Beck and his team hope that the results of these experiments will help them to identify key genes regulating Barrett’s syndrome and oesophageal cancer. “If we can identify exactly which genes are being activated at the very start,” says Dr Beck, “then we can work to develop brand new anticancer therapies to target them.”
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