Cancer Prevention

It is increasingly clear that states of abnormal cell growth and death regulation are found in a wide variety of disease states including cancer. The impact on mortality of these diseases is clear as cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States (American Cancer Society), and globally the rates of cancer are growing. In fact, cancer is now the leading cause of death for those less than 85 years of age.  The American Cancer Society estimated 50% of cancer deaths could be prevented through known cancer prevention strategies by modifiable lifestyle factors and appropriate use of available screening for early detection of cancers.

It has been suggested that nutrients play a prominent role in cancer prevention, but how they regulate cellular growth, differentiation and death is still unclear. For example, colorectal cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer diagnosed each year in the US and as many as 35% of those diagnosed die of this disease. Although many of these cases are the result of an inherited propensity to develop tumors, a majority of the risk is a result of “environmental” causes.

Cancer prevention research in the Department of Nutrition Science has been ongoing from many years; however, recently the strength of this area has grown. The number of faculty involved in cancer related projects has increased, and the research direction of a new faculty hire in to the Department will be cancer prevention. In addition, the overall environment at Purdue is conducive to enhancing Cancer Prevention as a signature area, with other INP faculty and the unique Purdue Cancer Center.

Contributors in the Department

    Resources Available

    In addition to the excellent laboratory facilities in the department of Nutrition Science, other campus wide resources and collaborations are available to further foster the research in cancer prevention.

    An important resource on campus is the Purdue Cancer Center. The Cancer Center is one of just eight NCI-designated basic-research Cancer Centers in the United States. The Center is committed to helping cancer patients by identifying new molecular targets and designing future agents and drugs for effectively detecting and treating cancer. In addition, the Indiana Elks Cancer Research Program was established at Purdue University in 1948. Since then, the Indiana Elks Charities, Inc. has provided continual, generous support to the program. In 2002, cumulative donations reached over $2,370,000. The Purdue Cancer Center uses all donations from the Indiana Elks to directly support cancer research, either through the funding of individual and collaborative research grants or the purchase of critical equipment. The core facilities are available to all researchers campus wide.

    The Cancer Center's core services include:

    Engagement

    The International Breast Cancer and Nutrition (IBCN) project, which is co-led by Connie Weaver, has significant engagement efforts. The IBCN sponsors an annual international symposium.  Adobe Connect has been used to present information on nutrition and breast cancer to extension educators.  Future plans are to continue dissemination of research results via Adobe Connect as well as consumer related eduational information.

Learning

    Information on this area permeates the undergraduate curriculum.  For example, lectures in NUTR 10500 and NUTR 31500 present the concept of cancer prevention and results, including results from the Nutrition Science faculty.  The Department of Nutrition Science offers a graduate level course, Nutrition and Cancer Prevention.  In addition, Nutrition and Genetics is also offered on a regular basis with many examples being focused on cancer.

    Dorothy Teegarden is also director and PI of the NIH funded Cancer Prevention Internship Program.  The objective of this campus-wide program is to develop and test a curriculum for cross-training students to effectively address the diverse field of cancer prevention and that can be applied to other interdisciplinary research topics.  The program supports four graduate students for a full year and ten undergraduates for a full time summer research experience and supports work in research during the academic year. 

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