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The Cancer Chemoprotection Program

Genetic and Epigenetic Mechanisms in Cancer Prevention and Therapy


Principal Investigator: Roderick H. Dashwood, Ph.D.

This lab examines genetic and epigenetic changes in cancer. Lab members come from diverse backgrounds, including molecular toxicology, biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, pharmacology, pharmacy, and nutrition. The research tools are equally diverse, encompassing primary human colon cancers and patient-matched controls, cultured human colon cancer cells, preclinical models, and mechanistic studies at the molecular level. Genetic aspects focus on mutational events in oncogenes and tumor suppressors, and the beneficial versus deleterious actions of diet and lifestyle factors. Epigenetic work considers the mechanisms by which whole foods, isolated constituents, and metabolites act as modifiers of gene expression. The research dovetails experiments at the interface of protein acetylation (histone and non-histone changes), DNA methylation, and non-coding RNAs (miRNAs, lincRNAs, etc.). This “epigenetic trinity” can be affected by isothiocyanates from cruciferous vegetables, garlic organosulfur and organoselenium compounds, shortchain fatty acids derived from gut fermentation of dietary fiber (e.g., butyrate), and phytochemicals in spinach. Of particular mechanistic interest is the growth arrest, autophagy, and/or apoptosis that occur in cancer cells, with less marked changes in normal cells.