ANTHC hosts expert panel to help combat gastric cancer among Alaska Native people

September 23, 2019

Gastric cancer, commonly known as stomach cancer, is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lining of the stomach. Alaska Native people experience higher rates of gastric cancer than other groups in the United States.

This past July, the Consortium hosted a two-day panel of Alaska Native community leaders, health care providers and gastric cancer experts from around the globe. The goal of the meeting was to identify the best methods to combat the disease Alaska Native populations through prevention and early diagnosis.

For the last several years, ANTHC, the Centers for Disease Control’s Arctic Investigations Program, and the University of Alaska, Anchorage, have worked to understand how stomach cancer affects Alaska Native people. In the meeting, subject matter experts discussed unique challenges to prevent and detect cancer as well as what has helped reduce stomach cancer rates in other countries, including Japan and Korea.

“This was a robust meeting with enthusiastic participation by all who attended. It was an amazing opportunity to learn from internationally recognized gastric cancer experts,” said Stephen Vindigni, MD, ANMC Internal Medicine. “There was a great appreciation for the challenges we face in Alaska and a genuine interest in improving the quality of life of Alaska Native people by diagnosing gastric cancer at an earlier stage when there are more treatment options.”

A concern the group addressed was that those diagnosed with gastric cancer are often younger and female. Additionally, Alaska Native people diagnosed with stomach cancer are more likely to have an aggressive type that is difficult to identify through screening and are also diagnosed at later stages.

The panel’s aims also included:

  • Providing recommendations for best screening practices to implement in the Alaska Native population
  • Creating a ranked list of research that is needed to achieve this goal
  • Identify gaps in existing research that are needed to achieve the meeting’s goal

“This outstanding meeting brought together Alaska community members and leaders and gastric cancer and H. pylori experts from around the world to work towards decreasing rates of gastric cancer and identifying it early in Alaska Native people in order to save lives,” said Michael Bruce, MD, MPH, Capt. USPHS, and Director of CDC’s Arctic Investigations Program. “I was excited to see Alaskans working creatively to address this important problem in our state by using the advice from the experts and shaping it into an Alaska context. That’s the Alaska drive and spirit in action!”

The group has taken steps to publish information about the meeting and the discussions, in an attempt to raise awareness with other scientists and health care providers and identify more actions to take to combat gastric cancer among Alaska Native people.

The seven experts in gastric cancer from around the world included:


  • Manami Inoue, MD, PhD, Division of Prevention, Center for Public Health Sciences, National Cancer Center

Republic of Korea:

  • Soo-Jeong Cho, MD, PhD, Seoul National University Hospital


  • Karen Goodman, MD, PhD, University of Alberta

United States:

  • M. Constanza Camargo, PhD, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
  • Chin Hur, MD, MPH, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Adam Bass, MD, Harvard Medical School
  • Julie Parsonnet, MD, Stanford University.

For more information about gastric cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute’s gastric cancer page at

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