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NCI Program Project in Esophageal Carcinogenesis

Project Overview

This Program Project grant entitled “Mechanisms of Esophageal Carcinogenesis” seeks to define and elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying esophageal carcinogenesis with translation to new strategies in therapy. Based upon historical interactive collaborations between the Project Leaders and usage of the Scientific Core Facilities, this program project focuses upon hypothesis-driven research that is innovative. The experience and expertise of the Project Leaders, in concert with the platforms provided by the Core Facilities, will result in enhancement of the research that would not be possible if the projects were independent of each other.

Project One (Anil K. Rustgi, MD, Project Leader) will focus upon the biological roles of the cooperation between p120-catenin and p53 tumor suppressor genes in the formation of esophageal tumor cells as well as the interplay of these tumor cells with CAFs and MDSCs in the esophageal tumor microenvironment.  

Project Two (J. Alan Diehl, PhD, Project Leader) elucidates the manner in which cyclin D1 is regulated and defines the novel role of the Fbx4 mutations in esophageal carcinogenesis, with translation into the development of therapeutic approaches. Specifically, SCFFBX4-aB crystallin E3 ligase maintains threshold levels of the cyclin D1/CDK4 kinase critical for esophageal cell growth and homeostasis.  Therapeutic strategies targeting the cyclin D1/CDK4 kinase, or key downstream effectors (such as PRMT5) may provide significant therapeutic benefit in the treatment of esophageal cancer.   

Project Three (Adam J. Bass, MD, Project Leader; Kwok-Kin Wong, MD, PhD, Project Co-Leader) has discovered genomic amplifications of genes encoding ERBB-family kinases and cell cycle mediators in esophageal cancers (both ESCC and EAC) will serve as biomarkers to guide use of targeted inhibitors and that testing of therapeutics in genomically defined model systems will allow the identification of optimal agents and rational combinations of targeted agents. 

Three highly successful Core facilities are designed to provide esophageal cancer-specific services for the stimulation of collaborative research: Administrative/Biostatistics (Core A), Molecular Pathology and Imaging or MPIC (Core B) and Host-Microbial Analytic and Repository Core (Core C).

The Program Project will continue to foster interdisciplinary research at Penn, DFCI, MUSC and nationally that leads to a cooperative understanding of the molecular processes that form and regulate esophageal carcinogenesis with innovative opportunities in translational medicine. This highly productive and synergistic P01 involves integrated and innovative Projects, which are supported by robust and unique Core Facilities. Institutional support is truly outstanding. We seek to provide unique benefits in esophageal cancer to the biomedical research and clinical communities as well as to our patients.


Anil K. Rustgi, M.D.
T. Grier Miller Professor of Medicine and Genetics
Chief, Division of Gastroenterology
Co-Director, Tumor Biology Program
Abramson Cancer Center 

Program Project Administration

Gina Burgese
Grants Manager
Division of Gastroenterology

University of Pennsylvania | Perelman School of Medicine