May 6, 2024

Visit to PKU bolsters gastric cancer collaboration

Lin Lin (center) with colleagues from the Ding lab at Peking University Third Hospital.

A Joint Institute project delayed by COVID got a boost and a new focus following a UMMS lab member’s visit to Beijing.

Lin Lin, MD, PhD, a research specialist lead in the lab of Associate Professor of Molecular & Integrative Physiology, Dr. Costas Lyssiotis, traveled to PKU Third Hospital in 2023 to meet with research collaborators exploring potential new treatments for gastric cancers. Lin’s visit marked the first in-person meeting between investigators since the project award in 2021, at the height of the pandemic and related travel restrictions.

“We were meeting on Zoom, but collaboration is so much more effective when you can groups together in the same room,” said Lyssiotis. “Lin was able to see the scope of their research and what they doing, and it gave us a lot of insights into how to move forward.”

After the in-person meeting with Dr. Shigang Ding, Lyssiotis’s co-PI and the Chair of the Gastroenterology Department at PKU Third Hospital, the direction of their project evolved to encompass both the previous aims and compelling new directions.

While initially planning to explore metabolic drug targets for pancreatic cancers, the team is now focused on gastric cancers. Dr. Ding’s lab was already making headway studying the enzyme ME1 as a treatment target for patients suffering H. Pylori-induced stomach ulcers, which can be a precursor to cancer. His team has developed a line of lab grown organoids mimicking the structure of the human stomach tissue that will facilitate the research.  

“They are one of the premier GI team in the country, handling around 194,600 outpatient consultations, 6000 inpatient admissions, and 79,155 endoscopic procedures and treatment per year,” Lin said, referring the H. Pylori patients there. “Upon seeing their lab, I was impressed by their facilities, as well as their expertise and (organoid) model systems.”

The result is a refined project combining the ME1 targeted therapy research of Lyssiotis’ lab with the tissue models and available patient datasets of the Ding lab to explore novel treatments for stomach cancers. Dr. Ding and some of his research colleagues are planning to visit Michigan Medicine this May to meet with Dr. Lyssiotis and tour facilities.

“I don’t think that shift would have ever happened organically on zoom. It required being there,” Lyssiotis said.  “Our lab team is very excited about this partnership and this new direction.”