Stomach CancerRSS

Last Updated: March 04, 2016

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What is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer, the 16th most common cancer in the United States, arises in the cells that line the stomach. The number of new cases of stomach cancer in the United States was estimated to be 24,590 in 2015.1

The incidence of stomach cancer varies widely depending on genetic and environmental factors. Stomach cancer is more likely to affect men, older patients, and those with a family history of the disease. In America, the risk of developing stomach cancer is also higher for Hispanic Americans, African Americans and Asians/Pacific Islanders than for non-Hispanic whites. Globally, the incidence varies by geographic region. Environmental risk factors for stomach cancer include smoking, obesity, and a diet high in smoked, salted, or pickled foods.2 Another risk factor is bacterial or viral infection. Infection by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori in the stomach appears to be a major cause of stomach cancer, as long-term infection with this bacterium can lead to inflammation and pre-cancer development. Research also indicates that stomach cancer is associated with infection with Epstein-Barr virus, a virus of the herpes family that is best known for causing mononucleosis.

The rates for new stomach cancers in the United States has been falling by 1.5% each year on average over the last 10 years.3 However, stomach cancer tends to be diagnosed at an advanced stage because it is often undetected until major symptoms appear, leading to a low 5 year survival rate of 17.9% between 2005 and 2011. Stomach cancer is treated with a combination of therapies that may include surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or radiation therapy.

View additional information on stomach cancer.

What have The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) researchers learned about stomach cancer?

TCGA researchers have:

  • Identified four genomic subtypes of stomach cancer, a finding that promises to improve the diagnosis and treatment of this cancer
    • Nine percent of cancers were positive for the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), comprising the EBV subtype
      • Tumors of the EBV subtype contained an increased number of genes that suppress the immune response, suggesting that amplified expression of these genes prevents the immune system from acting against EBV
      • EBV-positive tumors contained frequent alterations in the PIK3CA gene, which codes for a component of PI3-kinase and may be targeted by PI3-kinase inhibitors
    • The microsatellite instability (MSI) subtype made up 22 percent of gastric tumors in the study and was characterized by an elevated rate of mutations
    • One of the remaining subtypes (20 percent of the tumors studied) was distinguished by its genomic stability owing to few structural changes in the chromosomes, and the other (50 percent of the tumors studied) demonstrated high chromosomal instability (CIN)
      • The CIN subtype contained increased expression of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) including VEGFR2, suggesting that RTK inhibitors like the VEGFR2 targeting antibody, ramucirumab, may be effective against this subtype

Read the TCGA research network paper on stomach cancer.

Where can I find more information about TCGA Research Network studies?

View a list of TCGA scientific publications.

Where can I find clinical trials to treat stomach cancer that are supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI)?

View a list of NCI-supported stomach adenocarcinoma clinical trials that are now accepting patients.

Selected References

1Cancer Facts & Figures 2015. American Cancer Society.

2What are the Risk Factors for Stomach Cancer? American Cancer Society.

3SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Stomach Cancer. National Cancer Institute, Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program.