Dietary Interventions for Cancer Prevention

Principal Investigator: Gerd Bobe, Ph.D., M.P.H.

My laboratory focuses on identifying biomarkers in humans and parallel animal models that are associated with colorectal and pancreatic cancer and can be modified by diet and dietary supplements, including micronutrients and polyphenols. Colorectal cancer is an important public health problem, annually leading worldwide to over 500,000 deaths and in the US nearly 150,000 new cases and 50,000 deaths. Dietary change, both feasible and safe, represents a viable strategy for preventing colorectal cancer; however, dietary intervention trials often showed no protection. There is a need for biomarkers of exposure, risk, and response to dietary interventions. Such biomarkers will provide crucial data to 1) identify individuals at increased risk or early stages of colorectal carcinogenesis, 2) measure compliance with dietary interventions, and 3) predict individuals most likely to benefit from a long-term dietary intervention (i.e., personalized cancer prevention).

In a collaborative project, we have been linking prospective human cohort and nutrition studies at the National Cancer Institute with food databases to identify diets and dietary components, most notably flavonols, with promise of efficacious cancer prevention. For dietary components showing efficacy, we have been identifying biomarkers of exposure, risk, and early dietary response, especially interleukin 6, through parallel human intervention and animal model studies in serum, feces, and tissue. The functional significance of the identified molecular targets in carcinogenesis will be tested using cell culture and transgenic mouse studies. The goal is to use the identified molecular targets and biomarkers in clinical trials to test the efficacy of diets and dietary supplements for cancer prevention.