Stupid Strong Foundation Pledges $250,000 to Support Gastric Cancer Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center

The grant, in partnership with the Cless Family Foundation, will be distributed over three years and will enable Dr. Ajani and his colleagues to advance the understanding and treatment of gastric cancer, including new techniques to target the unique metabolism and pathways of gastric cancer.

FORT WORTH, TX — Stupid Strong Charitable Foundation is proud to contribute $250,000 to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to support cutting-edge research in gastric cancer led by Jaffer Ajani, M.D., professor of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology. The gift is made in partnership with the Cless Family Foundation.

“We’re thrilled to be able to support this research,” said Jen Cless Zehr from the Cless Family Foundation. “Early detection, discerning discoveries and novel treatments will make the prognosis of gastric cancer change from dire to hopeful.”

The Cless Family Foundation was touched to make a gift after reading an article in MD Anderson’s Promise magazine highlighting Stupid Strong Foundation’s 2019 donation to support gastric cancer research.

“This gift will assist our team in exploring therapeutic options for gastric cancer patients by defining the genetic and immunologic underpinnings of this disease to deploying the body’s immune system against it and simultaneously targeting cancer cells. By funding three key projects, this gift will help
MD Anderson advance lifesaving discoveries from bench to bedside for patients,” said Dr. Ajani. “Our team is poised to conduct a deep-dive investigations of gastric cancer cells collected from patients to help us better understand how to identify drugs that target the SOX-9 protein among others.”

Dr. Ajani’s team discovered that this SOX-9 protein, often activated in gastric cancer cells, suppresses the immune system and drives the growth of cancer cells. The knowledge gained by the research team will allow MD Anderson to target the unique metabolism and pathways of gastric cancer.

Another way that gastric cancer cells may escape immune detection is by producing CD47, a “don’t eat me” molecule that is also found on normal cells. By targeting CD47 with antibodies, MD Anderson’s researchers believe it may be possible to make gastric cancer cells more susceptible to immune system attack. If preclinical studies are successful, this work could lead to a clinical trial in humans, since anti-CD47 antibodies are already available for use in the clinic.

“In this time of extreme uncertainty and a global focus on battling the pandemic, the Cless Family Foundation’s generous grant brings hope and the strength to persevere, knowing that our mission to end gastric cancer is coming closer to reality,” said Jeff Netzer, President of Stupid Strong. “I’ve never been more optimistic about cutting-edge research made possible by donors who share our passion for the cause.”