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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
11-Mar-2014

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Contact: Rachel Steigerwald
media@gastro.org
301-272-1603
American Gastroenterological Association

New AGA/GCF research grant to fund exploration of the development of gastric cancer

Bethesda, MD and San Francisco, CA (March 11, 2014) — The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Research Foundation and the Gastric Cancer Foundation (GCF) are pleased to announce that the first AGA–Gastric Cancer Foundation Research Scholar Award in Gastric and Esophageal Cancer will support Mohamed El-Zaatari, PhD, from University of Michigan, as he conducts research into the role of myeloid cells in the transition from chronic inflammation to gastric pre-neoplasia.

Gastric (stomach) cancer is a deadly and frequently unheard of cancer. Worldwide, stomach cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer1, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths . In the U.S., gastric cancer is an often-fatal disease with a relative five-year overall survival rate of approximately 27 percent2; and the disease receives just 0.4 percent of federal cancer research dollars3.

"To find a cure for stomach cancer, basic science research is essential to understand the evolution of the disease and its underlying causes," said Martin Brotman, MD, AGAF, chair, AGA Research Foundation. "We are proud to join with the Gastric Cancer Foundation to support Dr. El-Zaatari and his team as they work toward advancing the understanding of gastric cancer."

Dr. El-Zaatari's research centers around determining the process by which chronic inflammation causes certain cells to become pre-malignant. Specifically, he aims to characterize changes in inflamed stomach microenvironment that lead to precancerous conditions. "We can use tools to look at the cell types and genes that are changing during the later stages of inflammation," he says. Ultimately what Dr. El-Zaatari and his colleagues learn could point to new targets for drug development.

Beginning in July 2014, Dr. El-Zaatari will receive $90,000 per year for three years to carry out his research.

"The Gastric Cancer Foundation is working to increase the amount of funding and support dedicated to eradicating stomach cancer," said Wayne L. Feinstein, chairman of the board, GCF. "It is a significant milestone for us to partner with AGA and support Dr. El-Zaatari's important research project. We look forward to seeing the new data he uncovers and are proud to contribute to his success."

The AGA Research Foundation announced its partnership with GCF in August 2013. The two organizations have come together to create a $2.25 million endowment to fund research that will enhance the fundamental understanding of gastric and esophageal cancer pathobiology in order to ultimately prevent or develop a cure for these diseases.

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About the AGA Research Foundation

The AGA Research Foundation, formerly known as the Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition, is the cornerstone of AGA's effort to expand digestive disease research funding. Since 1984, the AGA, through its foundations, has provided more than $40 million in research grants to more than 770 scientists. The AGA Research Foundation serves as a bridge to the future of research in gastroenterology and hepatology by providing critical funding to advance the careers of young researchers between the end of training and the establishment of credentials that earn National Institutes of Health grants. Learn more about the AGA Research Foundation or make a contribution at http://www.gastro.org/foundation.

About the AGA Institute

The American Gastroenterological Association is the trusted voice of the GI community. Founded in 1897, the AGA has grown to include 17,000 members from around the globe who are involved in all aspects of the science, practice and advancement of gastroenterology. The AGA Institute administers the practice, research and educational programs of the organization. http://www.gastro.org.

About the Gastric Cancer Foundation

Since 2009, the Gastric Cancer Foundation (GCF) has led a call-to-action to build awareness of stomach cancer and to expand resources and understanding of the disease. In 2011, GCF launched the first national Gastric Cancer Registry, a data bank of information and tissue samples that fuels research to find new strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. GCF is also primary contributor to a project that is creating a digital version of the gastric cancer genome based on DNA sequencing. GCF is devoted to funding stomach cancer research in pursuit of a cure. For more information about GCF or to make a donation, please visit http://www.gastriccancer.org.

1. http://www.wcrf.org/cancer_statistics/cancer_facts/stomach_cancer_china_japan_korea.php

2. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/stomachcancer/detailedguide/stomach-cancer-survival-rates

3. http://fundedresearch.cancer.gov/nciportfolio/search/funded?fy=PUB2012&type=site



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