Stomach Cancer - Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 05/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. To see other pages, use the menu.

Doctors are working to learn more about stomach cancer, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

  • Chemoprevention. Chemoprevention is the use of drugs or nutrients to lower a person’s risk of developing cancer. Early research suggests that using antibiotics to treat H.  pylori infections (see Risk Factors) can prevent changes to stomach cells that may lead to cancer.

  • Combination therapy. The combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery may reduce the chance that stomach cancer will return. Doctors may give chemotherapy before surgery, called neoadjuvant therapy, or after surgery, called adjuvant therapy. In addition, doctors may also combine radiation therapy and chemotherapy after surgery. Doctors are also looking at giving both radiation therapy and chemotherapy before surgery.

  • Newer chemotherapy treatments. Chemotherapy with multiple combinations of drugs is being increasingly used for people with stomach cancer. Drug combinations work slightly better than single drugs. As outlined in the Treatment Options section, drugs such as paclitaxel, docetaxel, irinotecan, oxaliplatin, as well as oral medications such as S-1 (TS-1) and capecitabine are being studied in combination with other types of chemotherapy.

  • Molecular testing of the tumor. Researchers are looking at the genetic changes in tumor cells to identify specific genes, proteins, and other factors unique to the tumor. Patients with different types of tumors with the same genetic change are able to participate in clinical trials, called “basket trials”, with the goal of finding treatments that target that genetic change.

  • Targeted therapy. Previous research has shown that several types of targeted therapy do not work well for stomach cancer. These include drugs that target the gene c-MET, bevacizumab (Avastin), and drugs that block epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). However, research continues on this type of treatment approach (see Molecular testing of the tumor, above).

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is an expanding area of research for stomach cancer. Researchers are looking at different types of immunotherapy that block the CTLA4 and/or PD-1 pathways. A tumor can use these pathways to hide from the body’s immune system. Immunotherapies that block these pathways allow the immune system to identify and destroy the cancer.

  • Palliative care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current stomach cancer treatments to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding stomach cancer, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

  • Visit the website of the Conquer Cancer Foundation to find out how to help support research for every cancer type. Please note this link takes you to a separate ASCO website. 

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance in how to cope with the physical, emotional, and social changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.