Identifying the drivers of stomach cancer to find more effective treatments

Stomach Cancer

Lead Researcher: Dr Lorraine O'Reilly

Institution: WEHI (The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research)

Cancer Council NSW Funding: $450,000

Funding Duration: 2020 – 2022


Stomach cancer has a low survival rate, with just 30% of Australian’s with stomach cancer surviving for five years or beyond. The primary reason for these poor outcomes is that it is often diagnosed too late. Stomach cancer develops very slowly which means people often don’t experience symptoms until the cancer has spread to other areas in their body. While genetic profiling of individual tumours is offering hope for new targeted treatments for many cancers, research of this kind for stomach cancer is only in very early phases with progress hampered by a lack of molecular information and research models that can mimic the disease. More research is urgently needed to develop effective treatments for stomach cancer.

The Research

Dr Lorraine O'Reilly and her team have developed a model of stomach cancer in the laboratory which reproduces all the stages of stomach cancer progression. In this project, Dr O’Reilly and her team will use the model to identify the molecular changes that drive stomach cancer development and pinpoint new markers to find the disease in its earliest stages and determine its alignment to the four distinct stomach cancer subtypes. 

Armed with this information, Dr O’Reilly and the team will then test new treatment combinations specifically tailored to the stomach cancer subtype, including drugs that inhibit cancer-inducing inflammation and immunotherapy.


Dr O’Reilly hopes the team’s work will lead to direct improvements on the quality of life and survival outcomes for stomach cancer patients by enabling personalised treatments specific to each cancer sub-type. Most of the treatments the team intend to test are already in clinical use for other cancers or diseases, which means the results from this project could be quickly progressed to clinical trials.


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