Our environment, lifestyle and genetics all play roles in creating inflammatory stress that drives changes within cells that lead to cancer. What if a drug could interrupt that process?
With a new $7.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, Zora Djuric, Ph.D., research professor of family medicine and nutrition sciences and her colleagues at the Rogel Cancer Center, will establish a national consortium of researchers engaging in clinical cancer prevention trials. Their network of research will test whether blocking inflammatory processes could protect cells and potentially prevent some cancers.
Most cancers are driven by a population of cells that are “stem-like.” Inflammatory stress – for example, associated with obesity, Western diets, chemical exposure or genetics – drives these stem-like cells to self-replicate and increase in number across different organ sites.
“Our overarching hypothesis is that the cellular shifts caused by inflammatory processes can be reversed or dampened by clinical preventive agents. With this grant, we’ll develop early phase clinical trials with new, less toxic agents in the hopes that this approach can ultimately reduce cancer deaths,” says Dean Brenner, M.D., Moshe Talpaz M.D. Professor of Translational Oncology and professor of internal medicine and pharmacology.
Brenner and Djuric are dual principal investigators on the grant. They have formed the Early Phase Clinical Cancer Prevention (ClinCaP) Consortium, which includes investigators from nine other NCI-designated cancer centers.
“We have a specific focus on obesity, which is a key source of inflammation. The obesity epidemic is a growing public health concern, and many different cancers are unfortunately linked to the increases in obesity,” Djuric says. “There is tremendous opportunity to stop or alter the obesity-driven processes and potentially prevent cancer from developing.”
Grant citation: National Cancer Institute UG1-CA242632-01