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Esophageal Cancer Research
Doctors and scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy strive to advance the world’s understanding and approaches to esophageal cancer. Our researchers are leading the largest-ever study of immunotherapy given after chemoradiation and surgery. This technique is promising for patients who still have detectable cancer cells in the body after having surgery or chemoradiation. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells mutate to avoid the immune system, therefore making them hard to kill. Immunotherapy works with the cells of the patient’s immune system to help them detect and attack the cancer.
Johns Hopkins researchers are interested in several ways that more individualized treatment could help esophageal cancer patients. One such way is with biomarkers. Biomarkers include everyday tests, like blood pressure and cholesterol. More advanced biomarker testing can also determine how a patient will respond to chemotherapy, allowing clinicians to prescribe a more individualized treatment.
Researchers also have found that approximately 15 to 20 percent of patients with esophageal cancer have HER2 genes that make too many HER2 proteins. They are investigating new ways to target these HER2 proteins in treatment. Our researchers are studying the effectiveness of small-molecule drugs that interfere with specific molecules involved in tumor growth on HER2 proteins present in esophageal cancer.
A patient’s family history, environment or lifestyle can affect his or her epigenomes. These changes don’t change the DNA but do affect how genes operate. By studying the epigenomes of cancer cells, researchers at Johns Hopkins hope to prescribe chemotherapy for esophageal cancer that turns on the genes that fight cancer cells. Epigenetic therapy treats cancer not by killing cancer cells, but by reprogramming their patterns of gene expression so that they lose their capacity for uncontrolled growth.
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