Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer

2007 News Archive

Hopkins Fellow Wins International Award for Biliary Cancer Research

Congratulations to Donna E. Hansel, MD Ph.D. Dr. Hansel received the 2007 F. Stephen Vogel Award for outstanding paper by a resident or fellow published in one of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology Journals. This award was given for her paper titled "Tumor length variation in biliary tract metaplasia, dysplasia and carcinoma" (Modern Pathology 2006;19:772-779).

Telomeres are functional caps at the ends of each of the linear human chromosome. Telomeres consist repetitive DNA sequences and proteins that protect the chromosome ends from undergoing breakage or recombination. Hence, functional telomeres help maintain the stability and integrity of the human genome. A variety of human cancers demonstrate short telomeres, which correlates with their genetic instability. Recently, at Johns Hopkins, a novel technique to identify telomere lengths in situ (TEL-FISH) (American Journal of Pathology 2002;160: 1259-1268) was developed.

In this paper, Dr. Hansel and colleagues at Hopkins demonstrated telomere shortening in biliary carcinomas, as well as pre-invasive lesions such as dysplasia and metaplasia, a lesion traditionally thought to be non-neoplastic. This paper offers insight into the pathogenesis of biliary tract cancer. This study represents the first in situ assessment in tumor length in biliary cancer. Prior assessments of human cancers have used whole tissue bulk techniques, which include contaminating normal tissue, and hence their results are reliable. This study clearly demonstrates that telomere shortening is a key process in biliary tract neoplasia and occurs at the pre-invasive, asymptomatic state. This study has potential for early detection of biliary carcinomas, since cells with shortened telomeres should be detectable in screening techniques. It also suggests that any telomerase inhibitors that become available for clinical use may be effective in biliary tract neoplasia, since tumors with shortened telomeres should be most sensitive to the effects of inhibition of telomerase. For these reasons, this study, which was supported by donations to our program, was recognized with this prestigious international award.

Click here to view the pdf copy of "Tumor length variation in biliary tract metaplasia, dysplasia and carcinoma".

~June 2007