Research into stomach cancer

Researchers around the world are looking at the causes, diagnosis and treatment of stomach cancer.

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for stomach cancer in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in.

Research and clinical trials

All cancer treatments must be fully researched before they can be used for everyone. This is so we can be sure that:

  • they work
  • they work better than the treatments already available
  • they are safe

Research into the causes of stomach cancer


Some people may inherit gene changes that increase their risk of developing stomach cancer. Researchers are looking at people diagnosed with stomach cancer at a young age and people with a family history of stomach cancer to see if they have genetic changes.


There are differences in the number of people developing stomach cancer around the world. Some countries have higher rates than others. Researchers continue to look at diet and cancer, and how to reduce our risk.

How cancer develops

Doctors are looking at cell changes in precancer and cancer cells. They hope this will help them to understand more about the causes of stomach cancer and help them choose new treatments in future.

Research into diagnosing stomach cancer

We know that it is easier to treat stomach cancer if it is diagnosed early. Doctors are looking at better ways of diagnosing stomach cancer early. Research includes looking at:

  • tests to identify who might have stomach cancer and needs further tests urgently
  • tests that might detect stomach cancer at an early stage
  • tools to help GPs decide who needs further tests or a specialist referral for stomach cancer symptoms

Gene tests before treatment

Researchers are looking at genes in stomach cancers. They hope this will help them work out which treatment is best for each person.

Research into treatment for stomach cancer


You might have chemotherapy before and after surgery, or as your main treatment for advanced stomach cancer.

Researchers are looking at:

  • how chemotherapy affects stomach cancer cells
  • chemotherapy drugs that might cause fewer side effects
  • combining chemotherapy with targeted drugs or immunotherapy to see if it works better
  • chemotherapy for advanced stomach cancer

Targeted cancer drugs and immunotherapy

Targeted cancer drugs work by ‘targeting’ those differences that help a cancer cell to grow and survive. Some seek out and destroy cancer cells. Others help the body's immune system to attack the cancer. So some of these drugs are also called immunotherapies.

Researchers are looking at giving these drugs on their own or with chemotherapy. Researchers are looking at many types of targeted drugs and immunotherapies for stomach cancer, including:

  • trastuzumab
  • pertuzumab
  • onartuzumab 
  • rucaparib
  • ramucirumab
  • ibrutinib
  • pembrolizumab
  • nivolumab 

Another type of immunotherapy is T cell therapy. T cells are part of the immune system. Researchers are looking into making a change to T cells by adding a gene. They hope this will help the cells recognise and attack cancer cells that produce a particular protein.

Stopping cancer coming back

Research has shown that aspirin may can lower the risk of dying from cancer. It may can also lower the risk of some cancers spreading to other parts of the body.

A large Cancer Research UK trial is looking at whether aspirin can lower the risk of an early cancer coming back after treatment.

Last reviewed: 
20 Jun 2019
  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials database 
    Accessed June 2019

  • Clinical database
    Accessed June 2019

  • Gastric cancer
    The Lancet 2016 May 5
    Van Cutsem E and others

  • Diet, nutrition, physical activity and stomach cancer
    World Cancer Research Fund International, 2016

  • Healthy lifestyle index and risk of gastric adenocarcinoma in the EPIC cohort study.
    G Buckland and others
    International Journal of Cancer. 2015 Aug 1; Volume 137 Issue 3 Pages 598-606

  • Aspirin and cancer risk: a quantitative review to 2011
    Bosetti C and others
    Annals of Oncology 2012 Jun 23 (6): 1403-15

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