Grants - Texas - Designated Grants - 2019

Jaffer Ajani, M.D.

Funded by the Gastric Cancer Foundation

Peritoneal carcinomatosis (PC) — an aggressive metastasis of gastric cancer — is always fatal.

Approximately 20 percent of patients newly diagnosed with gastric cancer already have PC; and about
45 percent of those diagnosed will eventually develop PC. Researchers have a poor understanding of gastric cancer cells that populate the peritoneal cavity. Current therapies offer little help and research is limited. The lack of understanding of PC puts clinicians at a disadvantage when determining the best strategies for patients with this disease.

Researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center are overcoming these obstacles through the Intraperitoneal Program. This program, which is led by Jaffer Ajani, M.D., professor of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology at MD Anderson, is aiming to conduct high-quality multiplex profiling of PC cells and stroma (surrounding tissue). The program allows Dr. Ajani and his team to generate multiplex data for a large number of samples from patients and use innovative tools that, he believes, will result in transformative ways this disease is treated.

To carry out this research, Dr. Ajani’s team has already collected abdominal fluid from many patients with intraperitoneal metastases. From these samples, they have identified cancer stem cells, which they believe are responsible for spreading into the peritoneal cavity. Eventually, Dr. Ajani’s team aims to develop a deeper understanding of the immune biology of the peritoneal cavity and how cancer stem cells recruit normal cells to be protected from the immune system.

Too many lives have been lost to this cancer. In order to develop therapies that can be tested in preclinical models, researchers need to conduct a deep dive investigation into PC using multidimensional integrative analyses to comprehensively profile the tumor and its microenvironment. The goal of this work is to discover therapeutic targets, biomarkers and signatures with prognostic and predictive potentials, enabling us to build illuminating predictive models. The researchers’ ultimate mission is to use every resource available to find viable therapies to fight this terrible disease.