Drugs, Hamburgers and Wine – Causes and prevention of cancer"

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Jun 25, 2013
from 05:30 PM to 06:30 PM


Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 1

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0116 252 2320

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Professor Karen Brown

Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine

Lecture summary

Only ~5-10% of cancers are caused by single inherited genes; the majority of cases can be attributed to our lifestyle, diet and the environment and it has been estimated that up to half of all cancers may be preventable. Equally, there is some evidence that certain dietary constituents such as fibre, fruit and vegetables may help protect against particular cancers but proving these associations is extremely challenging. My research to date has focussed on two overlapping aspects of cancer prevention; initially I was interested in understanding how DNA-damaging chemicals such as the drug tamoxifen which is used for breast cancer treatment and prevention, and the food mutagen PhIP, which is formed in meat upon cooking, cause cancer. The ultimate goal of this work was to identify ways to reduce exposure and/or the risk to individuals through a greater appreciation of the underlying mechanisms. Building on this experience my research naturally progressed to the development of chemopreventive agents that people can take to lower their chances of developing cancer.  There is increasing evidence from clinical trials that cancer chemoprevention in humans is feasible. However, it is vital that the agents used are absolutely safe since they will be taken on a long-term basis by high-risk healthy people, and this has ruled out several promising pharmaceutical drugs that can cause serious side effects. Chemicals derived from the diet, such as resveratrol (contained in red wine and peanuts) and curcumin (a constituent of the curry spice turmeric) are considered an attractive alternative as they are likely to have a favourable safety profile. We have therefore concentrated our efforts on naturally occurring compounds. As a group, our research spans the discovery of new chemopreventive agents, preclinical screening, and elucidation of the mechanisms of action through to early phase clinical trials. I will share some of our recent highlights and the challenges we face in translating these agents from our laboratory to the clinic, along with some of our ambitions and hopes for the future.

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