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Sylvester Researchers Receive $9.5 Million Grant To Study Esophageal Cancer

Driving Research For Patients

Researchers to investigate esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), the most common form of esophageal cancer in the United States.

Researchers at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have received a $9.5 million National Cancer Institute Program Project (P01) grant to investigate esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC).

Microscopic view of Hodgkin lymphoma“People with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease, known as GERD, can develop a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus,” said Wael El Rifai, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of basic science at Sylvester, co-leader of the Tumor Biology Research Program, and principal investigator on the grant. “The cells in the esophagus adapt to protect themselves from the acid, and that increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer.” 

“This grant is a testament to the impactful research already underway at Sylvester that is paving the way in providing patients with the best care today, and I am confident the team, under Dr. El-Rifai, will make great progress,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester. “With these resources, our researchers can learn more about this disease and create better tools to continuously improve patient care.”

While only around 2% to 3% of patients progress from Barrett’s esophagus to EAC during their lifetimes, these cancers have a dismal, 15% five-year survival rate. In the past 30 years, EAC prevalence has increased 600%.

“We are beginning to understand how esophageal cells adapt to GERD’s acidic environment and how those changes can lead to Barrett’s esophagus and eventually cancer,” said Dr. El-Rifai. “Now, we have to find better ways to intervene. More than 18,000 people in the U.S. die from EAC each year — we need to do better.”