Steven Itzkowitz, MD conducts basic science and clinical studies focused on gastrointestinal oncology. The laboratory studies the role of trefoil factors in gastrointestinal cancer biology.
Trefoil factor family-3 (TFF3) has mainly been viewed as a protein which promotes healing following mucosal injury, but our laboratory discovered that TFF3 expression may contribute to aggressive behavior of GI cancer cells since it is associated with a worse survival of patients with gastric cancer, independent of cancer stage. This is the first evidence in any human cancer type that TFF3 contributes to cancer cell behavior.
In addition, we demonstrated in a rat colon cancer model system that TFF3 promotes migration and invasion of cancer cells, prevents apoptosis, and is correlated with enhanced metastatic behavior in vivo resulting in increased mortality.
Other studies have disclosed that mutations of the gastric tumor suppressor gene, TFF1, makes human gastric cancer cells more migratory and invasive. Studies are ongoing to elucidate the mechanisms involved in the cancer-associated functions of TFFs.
Clinical studies are focused on colorectal cancer prevention and early detection. Clinical trials are exploring the utility of stool DNA testing for detecting early colonic neoplasia in average risk individuals and separately in the high-risk group of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. In average risk individuals, stool DNA testing was superior to fecal occult blood testing for detecting colon cancer. An improved and more simplified version of the test shows promise for enhancing colon cancer detection. Other studies are exploring the risk factors for developing colon cancer in IBD and the possible role of anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce this risk.
Dr. Itzkowitz helped spearhead community outreach efforts to enhance awareness of colon cancer in East Harlem. He and his colleagues have demonstrated the effectiveness of new strategies to improve the completion rates of screening colonoscopy among minority individuals by employing patient navigators within an open access referral system. This model is gaining increased acceptance and use in other medical centers.
Icahn Medical Institute
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