Exploring the birth of a carcinoid cancer cell

Qiao (Joe) Zhou, PhD, Harvard University, and Ramesh Shivdasani, MD, PhD, Harvard Medical School

Much about a carcinoid cancer cell remains a mystery. For that reason, NETRF funds research to understand how and why a neuroendocrine cancer cell comes to be. Two Harvard researchers are teaming up to explore important longstanding mysteries.

2017 NETRF Accelerator Award grantees, Qiao (Joe) Zhou, PhD, Harvard University, and Ramesh Shivdasani, MD, PhD, Harvard Medical School, are searching for fundamental answers about the origin of intestinal neuroendocrine cells and carcinoid tumors.

The researchers will capitalize on exciting advances in stem cell biology, nuclear profiling, and genome editing to understand the differences between human carcinoid tumor cells and their normal counterparts, in an effort to find the irregularities that distinguish cancer cells from healthy ones. Drs. Zhou and Shivdasani also aim to identify the likely precursor cells (the cell of origin) that give rise to intestinal NETs in laboratory models.  

By understanding when and how things go wrong, the Accelerator Grant team hopes to identify the specific proteins or pathways that can be targeted with new or existing drugs. Such therapies will turn on or off cellular functions or communication in hopes of interrupting the production, survival, and proliferation of intestinal cancer cells.

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Have, or will you consider body donation for research? This disease is very personal to me, as to many others who have brought up the subject of our remains to be donated for research, but as of yet, there have been no results of specific places. Diagnosed in April 2015 after years of what is now considered to have been Carcinoid Syndrome, I still live with symptoms, but unable to specify cause/origin. I have 3 Pituitary tumors that drs refuse to take or biopsy, and I would like to know if they are the cause while I’m alive, but if… Read more »


Interesting article on research being done. I was diagnosed with NETS of ileum and metastases in liver, one in breast and lymph node. My son died from a rare cancer, olfactory nueroblastoma or esthesionueroblastoma. I heard something regarding a connection between the two cancers, T or CARR cell connection. No one else in the family has died of cancer or had any of these. But I suspect my father had problems for much f his life with many of the same symptoms I have experienced throughout my life, namely constipation irritable bowels, skin eruptions and itching. Could I have had… Read more »

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Exploring the birth of a carcinoid cancer cell