Northwestern receives $10 million for cancer prevention trials

December 10, 2003

Northwestern University has been named one of six leading research institutions to conduct early-phase cancer prevention clinical trials. Of the total $42 million award from National Cancer Institute, Northwestern will receive $10 million.

The clinical studies will assess the cancer preventive potential of new various substances, including over-the-counter medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs and compounds in teas and soybeans, including the isoflavone genistein, which has been reported effective in the treatment of prostate cancer.

Raymond C. Bergan, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, is the principal investigator for the study at Northwestern University. Bergan is director of experimental therapeutics at The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

"Through this grant, we can now offer new forms of therapy and hope for those who are at high risk for developing cancer. Our aim is to stop them from ever getting cancer through early identification and intervention with cutting edge therapy," Bergan said.

The six institutions were selected on the basis of their expertise in cancer prevention in a variety of cancers. Northwestern, in particular, excels in the areas of prostate, lung, ovarian and breast cancer prevention.

The consortium members will design and conduct experiments to test the cancer prevention potential of substances and study how they affect various processes involved in cancer's formation and spread. The centers will set up networks of other institutions to conduct the studies and recruit participants.

Substances likely to be studied include those that inhibit an enzyme called COX, believed to be involved in cancer formation and spread. Aspirin and some other over-the-counter painkillers block production of COX, and some have been shown to prevent certain cancers. Other drugs and substances to be studied include statins, which, in addition to lowering cholesterol, have been shown to affect cell growth and may prevent cancer; polyphenols, antioxidants found in tea, which may prevent damage to DNA; and certain isoflavones, such as genistein, which are chemicals found in soybeans that may play a role in blocking the development of cancers.

The other institutions participating in these clinical trials are University of Arizona, Tucson; University of California-Irvine; the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; and University of Texas-M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.
KEYWORDS: cancer, cancer prevention, COX, statins, polyphenols, soybeans, isoflavones 12/10/03.

Northwestern University

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