PHILADELPHIA - Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine will receive $7.5 million over the next five years from the National Cancer Institute to find new ways to treat esophageal cancer, in addition to traditional chemoradiation. This grant is a renewal of a Program Project funded over the last five years.

Anil Rustgi, MD

"This new award builds upon the multidisciplinary effort conducted by an outstanding team of investigators at Penn and other institutions, and there has been significant progress in this cancer that historically has been very difficult to diagnose and treat,” says Anil K. Rustgi, MD, the T. Grier Miller Professor of Medicine and Genetics and Chief of the Gastroenterology Division, who is the overall Principal Investigator on the grant.

Continued research for esophageal cancer is critical for prolonging patient survival, especially since this type of cancer becomes prevalent in its later stages and patients often have a poor prognosis and reduced response to traditional chemoradiation therapy. This research is a continuation of the group's previous findings, which made substantial progress in deciphering the molecular and cellular biology underlying esophageal cancer, with broad applications to other related cancers in the lung, head/neck and skin.  

One project will focus on the biological roles of oncogenes (EGFR, c-Met) and tumor suppressor genes (p53, p120catenin) in esophageal carcinogenesis, as well as the mechanisms of tumor cell invasion into healthy tissue (Dr. Rustgi). Other projects will deal with how blood vessels and fibroblasts interact to make the internal environment permissive for tumor invasion (Dr. Meenhard Herlyn, Wistar Institute), and how the protein cyclin D1 is regulated in the nucleus and in the cytoplasm (Dr. J. Alan Diehl, Penn). The projects are unified further by core facilities (Morphology: Dr. Jonathan Katz; Molecular Biology/Gene Expression: Dr. Gary Wu; and Biostatistics: Dr. Phyllis Gimotty). Collaborators at other institutions include Dr. Matthew Meyerson of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Broad Institute, Boston, on functional genomics, and Dr. Umar Mahmood of Massachusetts General Hospital on tissue imaging. Data generated from these projects will be used to develop new therapeutic drugs and treatments for prolonging patient survival.  


PENN Medicine is a $3.6 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is currently ranked #3 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report's survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to the National Institutes of Health, received over $366 million in NIH grants (excluding contracts) in the 2008 fiscal year. Supporting 1,700 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) includes its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, rated one of the nation’s top ten “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S.News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, named one of the nation’s “100 Top Hospitals” for cardiovascular care by Thomson Reuters. In addition UPHS includes a primary-care provider network; a faculty practice plan; home care, hospice, and nursing home; three multispecialty satellite facilities; as well as the Penn Medicine Rittenhouse campus, which offers comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation facilities and outpatient services in multiple specialties.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $7.8 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report’s survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $405 million awarded in the 2017 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center — which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report — Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital – the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, a leading provider of highly skilled and compassionate behavioral healthcare.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2017, Penn Medicine provided $500 million to benefit our community.

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