But Esophageal Cancer was not part of NCI’s original plans for TCGA.
The foresight and steadfast advocacy of ECAN’s Board of Directors played an important role in making sure Esophageal Cancer was included in this pivotal project.
The ECAN Board sent a letter to the Director of the National Cancer Institute in the spring of 2011 making it clear that it was imperative to include Esophageal Cancer in The Cancer Genome Atlas. But they did more than just talk. They promised concrete assistance!
The Board offered to help with the often difficult collection of tumor samples – and pledged to raise the necessary funds to launch the project, since NCI appeared unable to cover those costs. With just $40,000 in the bank and most staff working full-time with no compensation, ECAN pledged to raise the $500,000 that would be required to get the project off the ground.
Less than three months later, NCI began an Esophageal Cancer pilot project of TCGA and invited ECAN’s Chairman and President to serve on the Disease Working Group directing the project. The project was able to start quickly because NCI found the necessary funding in its budget. But acquiring the necessary tumor samples was more challenging and took longer than expected.
The results of the Esophageal Cancer pilot project of TCGA were published in the journal Nature in January 2017. The research showed that Esophageal Adenocarcinoma was very similar to the most prevalent type of gastric cancer. This finding allowed Esophageal Adenocarcinoma patients to be included in many clinical trials focused on gastric cancer from which they would otherwise have been excluded.
Some of those studies proved the efficacy of immunotherapy for patients with Esophageal Adenocarcinoma and Gastroesophageal Junction Cancer and paved the way for the recent approvals of Opdivo and Keytruda for patients with advanced Esophageal Cancer.