Tumor markers are studied so as to physically and financially reduce burden on cancer patients
Esophageal cancer patients are treated with established therapies including surgeries, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Since the wall of the esophagus is as thin as about 4 mm, esophageal cancer tends to recur. To prevent an esophageal cancer patient from recurring after surgery, the patient is normally treated with chemotherapy. However, it cannot be said that the effect of the treatment is perfect.
Image source: ips2010.jp
Some patients do not recur without chemotherapy. To determine whether esophageal cancer recurs after surgery, a tumor marker that can easily detect esophageal cancer from blood was covered by the Japanese National Health Insurance in 2007.
Esophagus & Stomach Surgery Department of Digestive Disease Center at Omori Hospital of Toho University Medical Center has treated patients of esophageal and stomach cancer as well as studying improvement of the reliabilities of tumor markers.
"Effectively treating cancer patients can physically and financially reduce burden on them. As a detection method for determining the effect of cancer treatment, we have studied tumor markers for long years. If we can improve reliabilities of tumor markers, they could become very effective means," said Professor Hideaki Shimada, who is 56, of the department.
He is an expert in treating patients of esophageal and stomach cancer and has contributed to develop tumor marker "p53 IgG antibodies" for esophageal and colon cancer about 10 years ago. In cancer cells, p53 protein becomes abnormal. "p53 IgG antibodies" occur in blood in response to the abnormal p53 protein. Whether "p53 IgG antibodies" are detected from blood of a patient, it can be determined whether he or she has cancer cells.
"p53 IgG antibodies" occur in cancers cells of the esophagus and colon of the digestive system. In 2007, they were covered as a tumor maker for esophageal and colon cancer by the Japanese National Health Insurance. Since "p53 IgG antibodies" are also tumor markers for other types of cancer, we will establish a practice guideline for tumor markers of "p53 IgG antibodies" before "36th Japan Molecular Tumor Marker Research Meeting" scheduled in this October."
Professor Shimada is treating many patients while he is aggressively conducting his research. Many patients who visit the department are aged singles who also suffer from another disease such as heart disease, kidney disease, or diabetes. Since there are many patients who cannot receive standard medical treatments, therapeutic techniques need to be improved. Professor Shimada is facing difficult challenges day after day.
"We are thinking about how to treat our patients day after day. Although it is important to cure patients, we are also thinking about how they can live well. Although our hospital has been designated a tertiary emergency hospital, which needs to receive critically ill patients, we deal with patients with complications in association with regional medical settings."
Since patients of esophageal and stomach cancer tend to increase in Asia, new drugs for these cancer patients are being developed. Determination of effects of these drugs through tumor markers will become more important than before.
"I want to continue to actively study a method of determining the effects of medical treatments using simple blood tests step by step and hope to contribute to curing cancer patients," said Professor Shimada. He is developing both a medical treatment method and its determination method that are effective for patients.
Hospital Achievement for Treatment in 2014 fiscal year
Stomach cancer treatment: 339 cases
Esophageal cancer treatment: 161 cases
Number of beds in hospital: 948 beds
Hospital Address: Ohomori Nishi 6-11-1, Ohta-Ku, Tokyo, Japan