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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

​Pitt Researchers Receive Funding to Improve Treatment of Gastrointestinal Cancer

PITTSBURGH, May 14, 2007 To better understand and improve a common treatment for gastrointestinal cancer, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute researchers have received $25,000 from the GIST Cancer Research Fund a patient driven organization that funds research on gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GISTs. These tumors occur in the gastrointestinal tract and are particularly difficult to treat successfully over time.

The award supports the research of Anette Duensing, M.D., research assistant professor of pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Duensing and her colleagues are examining the mechanisms of action of Gleevec, a treatment for GIST that, although initially effective, does not stop tumors from growing long-term and does not work in about 15 percent of patients.

A large number of patients with GIST develop resistance to Gleevec about two to three years after being treated successfully, said Dr. Duensing. The goal of our research is to avoid and overcome resistance to Gleevec and to help patients achieve more long term remissions.

To improve the efficacy of Gleevec, Dr. Duensings lab is examining how cells respond to the treatment. She has identified a novel protein that appears to influence tumor cell response to Gleevec and is manipulating levels of this protein in GIST cells in an attempt to destroy tumor cells faster and more effectively.

The GIST Cancer Research Fund was founded in 2001 by Tania Stutman who was diagnosed with the disease in 1998. Since its founding, the fund has raised and awarded approximately $440,000 for GIST research.


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