NIH grant of $665K awarded to Rhode Island Hospital

Researchers study connection between H. pylori and gastric cancer

Providence, RI -- Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital have been awarded a five-year grant of $665,000 from the National Institutes of Health to continue research into how infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria leads to stomach cancer.

Steven Moss, MD, a gastroenterologist and a researcher in the COBRE Center for Cancer Research Development at Rhode Island Hospital, has been studying the link between a protein named p27 and H. pylori, the bacteria associated with stomach ulcers and gastric cancer. He is also working on a vaccine to combat H. pylori.

About a third of patients who undergo endoscopy at Rhode Island Hospital have H. pylori, which is known to be linked to stomach cancer, Moss says.

"It's very frustrating because by the time we diagnose someone with gastric cancer, there's very little we can do about it. Most patients are going to die within five years, so it would be nice to prevent it. It's one of the few cancers in which we can clearly identify a cause that could be preventable," says Moss, who is also an associate professor of medicine at Brown Medical School.

In 2005, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to two scientists who discovered that H. pylori is linked to peptic ulcer disease as well as inflammation of the stomach lining, a first step in the development of gastric cancer.

The bacterium was discovered in the early 1980s, and researchers have since found that certain people and populations are more likely to become infected with the bacteria than others. About 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. population carries the bacteria; it is more common in Central America, China and Japan, as well as in developing countries, or in populations with poor environmental living conditions. Most people acquire H. pylori by the time they are 2 or 3 years old.

Moss has been studying how H. pylori decreases the amount of p27 in a cell. This protein is responsible for growth regulation of cells, so that a loss of p27 causes cells to live longer and reproduce more quickly, causing abnormal cell turnover in the lining of the stomach.

"H. pylori decreases the amount of p27 in stomach cells," Moss says. "We think that's important in increasing the susceptibility to cancer. So we plan to look at this at the molecular level."

Gastric cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the world and the 10th most common in the United States. Current survival rates with treatment are 20 percent after five years.


The research will be conducted in the laboratories of Rhode Island Hospital's Division of Gastroenterology, as well as at the Center for Cancer Research Development, an NIH designated Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) at Rhode Island Hospital, and in collaboration with Brown Medical School. The COBRE Center was founded in 2002 at Rhode Island Hospital with an $8.2 million, five-year grant from the National Center for Research Resources. The goal of the center is to promote the career development of promising young cancer investigators by providing the mentorship of top senior investigators and access to the latest biomedical research technologies.

Founded in 1863, Rhode Island Hospital ( is a private, not-for-profit hospital and is the largest teaching hospital of Brown Medical School. A major trauma center for southeastern New England, the hospital is dedicated to being on the cutting edge of medicine and research. Rhode Island Hospital ranks 13th among independent hospitals who receive funding from the National Institutes of Health, with research awards of more than $27 million annually. Many of its physicians are recognized as leaders in their respective fields of oncology, cardiology, orthopedics and minimally invasive surgery. The hospital's pediatrics wing, Hasbro Children's Hospital, has pioneered numerous procedures and is at the forefront of fetal surgery, orthopedics and pediatric neurosurgery.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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