Tobacco-related cancer: How does it happen?

August 30, 2005

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 -- How does tobacco trigger the more than 170,000 cases of lung cancer that have already been diagnosed this year? While nearly 90 percent of them involved smokers, according to research estimates, only about 25 percent of all smokers are said to develop lung cancer. Why? What disposes some and spares others?

Researchers will discuss these types of questions and share new biochemical and epidemiologic studies, review key findings, and discuss lingering issues in a special symposium: "Tobacco Carcinogenesis," on Tuesday, Aug. 30, during the American Chemical Society's 230th national meeting in Washington, D.C. The symposium will be held at the Renaissance Washington Hotel, East Ballroom, from 8:00 a.m. to noon.

Stephen S. Hecht, Ph.D., head of cancer prevention at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, and Trevor M. Penning, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology and principal investigator of a program project on carcinogenesis at the University of Pennsylvania, organized the symposium, which includes scientists from academia, government and industry. Highlights include:

An overview of tobacco carcinogenesis -- What are the major classes of tobacco carcinogens? How might these compounds lead to cancer? As the symposium proceeds, researchers will explore specific tobacco cancer biochemistry in greater detail. For instance, Professor Penning will discuss the ways in which one variety of carcinogenic compounds -- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons -- may form lesions in DNA, which can lead to gene mutations that allow cancer cells to emerge and grow unchecked. (TOXI 30, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 8:00 a.m.)

Epidemiology of tobacco-related cancer -- Scientists estimate that only 25 percent of smokers develop lung cancer. Why do some smokers escape the disease, while others die from it? To find out, Peter G. Shields, M.D., director of cancer genetics and epidemiology at Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, is conducting clinical studies to assess individual differences in response to tobacco carcinogens. Shields will present recent data on this effort. In another epidemiological talk, Mimi Yu, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, will report on recent studies of a known bladder carcinogen found in smokers. (TOXI 35 & TOXI 36, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 9:40 a.m. & 10:00 a.m.)

Panel discussion -- A diverse group of scientists, including academic researchers, a government scientist, two tobacco industry researchers from Philip Morris and an independent industry consultant, will provide different perspectives on critical issues facing the field of tobacco-associated cancers. What are the most important carcinogens in tobacco products? How would their reduction/elimination impact cancer mortality among people who continue to smoke? What's the best way to evaluate a tobacco product's carcinogenic potential? (Tuesday, Aug. 30, 10:40 a.m.)

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 158,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

American Chemical Society

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