Case Western Reserve University Receives $6 Million to Study Barrett's Esophagus

Funding to propel studies across six institutions

The National Cancer Institute recently awarded a $6 million grant to the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to continue research on Barrett’s Esophagus, a potentially fatal condition associated with long-term gastroesophageal reflux. Tissue lining the esophagus transforms into tissue similar to that found in the intestine, significantly increasing esophageal cancer risk.

The highly competitive five-year award provides resources to investigate genetic determinants of Barrett's Esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. As a competitive renewal, the award extends a 2011 grant that provided $5.4 million to investigate genetic biomarkers related to the condition.

Funding supports the Barrett's Esophagus Translational Research Network (BETRNet) Research Center administered by Case Western Reserve University. The research will develop a new molecular marker based method for detection of Barrett's esophagus that was invented as Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. The new research will span six additional institutions including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, Mayo Clinic, Washington University St. Louis, and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The network includes basic science and clinical researchers working to find new ways to identify, monitor, and improve outcomes for patients at risk of Barrett’s Esophagus.

"The team has been working together for several years," said Amitabh Chak, MD, MS, contact Principal Investigator on the award and Director of Clinical Research in the Division of Gastroenterology and Liver Disease at UH Cleveland Medical Center. "This award affirms the exciting progress we have already made in detection, prediction, prevention, and treatment of Barrett’s Esophagus and esophageal cancer."

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine serves as a BETRNet Translational Research Center, focused on improving non-invasive diagnostic approaches to Barrett’s Esophagus and bringing new technology from the research laboratory to the clinic.

"During the previous award period, the team developed new methods for easy detection of Barrett's Esophagus and identified novel molecular mechanisms that cause cancer. The team will now screen people with this new method to detect Barrett's Esophagus and prevent the development of cancer. They will also develop new approaches for treating esophageal cancer," Chak said.

The forthcoming studies could significantly improve currently available cancer therapeutics. Said Chak, "A non-endoscopic, easy method for identifying Barrett's Esophagus will result in prevention or early detection of esophageal cancer. Characterizing molecular mechanisms that cause cancer will lead to better targeted approaches to effective cancer treatments." More information about these and other projects supported through BETRNet is available through the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.