2017-07-19 12:42:56 UTC

July 19, 2017

Dr. Saenz sheds light on his research project funded by the AGA-Gastric Cancer Foundation Research Scholar Award in Gastric Cancer.

Get to know Jose Saenz, MD, PhD, an instructor of medicine in the division of gastroenterology at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, who is the 2017 recipient of the AGA-Gastric Cancer Foundation (GCF) Research Scholar Award.

How did you become interested in gastric cancer research? 
It was a perfect way for me to marry my background in microbiology and explore new avenues in cancer research. Infection with the gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori is the greatest risk factor for developing gastric cancer. I am fascinated by the ability of a bacterium to live for decades in an inhospitable environment like the stomach, all the while changing the gastric landscape to survive and lead to cancer in the process. 

How will the AGA-GCF Research Scholar Award in Gastric Cancer help your research over the next three years?
If we can begin to understand how Helicobacter pylori genetically adapts to different regions of the stomach, this may clue us to which bacterial genes are important for survival in these regions, and we can begin to target these genes therapeutically. We can also use these bacterial genes as biomarkers so that we can identify people infected with bacterial strains that harbor these genes. Then we will be able to detect patients with an increased risk based on the bacterial profiles.

How does this AGA-GCF support help young scientists in the gastric cancer field?
I trust my research will help other scientists learn more about the microbial-host interactions that dictate the development of gastric cancer. The hope is that this research will inspire other scientists in the field to look at the interactions early in infection as being crucial events that might create a micro-environment that can progress to cancer.

What is your hope for your current research?
Ultimately, I would like to see my research lend insight into better understanding how Helicobacter pylori adapt to the stomach environment. We need to fundamentally explore these early interactions if we want to be able to identify high-risk patients and improve gastric cancer mortality, which is unacceptably high in the U.S. — and worldwide.

Looking for research funding? Several grants are currently available through the AGA Research Foundation Awards Program. Visit www.gastro.org/research-funding.

More on Gastric Cancer

Mark Your Calendar: 2018 AGA Grants Cycle Announced

June 27, 2017

Learn more about how you can apply for the 14 grants that will award over $2 million in research funding.

AGA to Host Webinar on Gastric Cancer Research Funding Opportunities

June 6, 2017

Learn more about opportunities available through the Department of Defense research program.

AGA-Caroline Craig Augustyn & Damian Augustyn Award in Digestive Cancer

May 26, 2017

This grant awards $40,000 for one year to an early career investigator who currently holds a federal or non-federal career development award devoted to conducting research related to digestive cancer.