NYP/Columbia Establishes Gastric Cancer Registry

Gastric cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the world. It is estimated that over 10,000 will die from gastric cancer this year in the United States.

One of the reasons for its poor mortality rate is its late diagnosis. Unfortunately, in the United States, more than 60% of gastric cancer cancers are diagnosed at later stages. This means that despite curative surgery, additional treatment with chemotherapy or radiation is needed and recurrence rate is high. Even worse prognosis is conferred on the patient whose tumor may be inoperable because it has spread to the distant lymph nodes, lining of the abdomen, or other organs. If diagnosed in earlier stages, the survival rate is approximately 50% at five years after diagnosis.

Early detection is key to successfully treating gastric cancer. Unfortunately, gastric cancer is frequently not found until its late stages because screening tests, considered part of routine care in higher-risk countries, are not standard care in the United States. Understanding your personal risk of gastric cancer and seeking proper screening can make early detection possible.

Who is at increased risk for gastric cancer?

Some main risk factors include:

  • Genetic predisposition. CDH1 gene mutation is known to cause hereditary diffuse gastric cancer syndrome. Other genetic mutations, including those implicated in Lynch Syndrome, also increase the risk of gastric cancer.
  • Gender: Men are twice as likely as women to develop gastric cancer
  • Race: Korean and other Asian Americans face the highest risk of all Americans. Black and Hispanic Americans are also at increased risk, followed by Caucasians.
  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection: H. pylori is found in a vast majority of patients with gastric cancer.
  • Atrophic Gastritis: Chronic swelling and inflammation of the stomach.
  • Diet: Consumption of salted, pickled, and smoked food is associated with an increased risk for gastric cancer
  • Family History: There is a genetic link with some types of gastric cancers.

People with immediate family members diagnosed with gastric cancer should consider being evaluated by a specialist or undergo screening.

What can I do if I am at increased risk for gastric cancer?

If you feel you are at risk for gastric cancer, it is important to talk to a specialist and develop a screening plan based on your needs. There is also a new initiative, which may act as a good first step for those concerned about their risk.

The Gastric Cancer Registry is an important initiative that seeks to identify risk factors for gastric cancer by collecting and analyzing patient information and tissue samples. There is no fee to take part, and patients currently diagnosed with gastric cancer as well as those believed to be at risk are encouraged to participate.

The registry has two main components:

  1. A ten-minute survey to evaluate participant’s risk. In this survey, the registry collects a patient history and, if applicable, additional information about his or her diagnosed gastric cancer or other related diseases, such as gastritis.
  2. If a participant is evaluated as high risk or has been previously diagnosed with gastric cancer or related disease, he or she can donate a bio-sample, such as a saliva or blood sample, to be analyzed and included in the registry. This information obtained from this sample will be invaluable for future researchers to improve treatment and prevention for gastric cancer.

In addition to providing an assessment of patients’ risk for gastric cancer, the registry helps provide guidance about next steps, such as the need to speak with a specialist or undergoing more vigorous testing.

If you are interested in participating in the gastric cancer registry, please contact the Gastric Cancer Care Program of NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center at 212.305.0374.