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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington join in national effort to study health impact of toxic substances

t Zarbl, Ph.D., member of the Hutchinson Center's Human Biology and Public Health Sciences divisions. His work focuses on using DNA-array technology to determine whether particular genes are sensitive to the actions of chemical toxicants and how these genes are involved in cancer development. Genes that are sensitive to a particular toxic substance can be identified by an increase or decrease in their expression level after exposure.

"The ultimate goal is to predict an individual's risk of cancer based on their genetic profile and environmental exposures," said Zarbl, also an associate professor of pathology and toxicology at UW.

"If a person carries a combination of genes that puts them at higher risk with a particular environmental exposure, then we may be able to develop methods of intervention such as dietary modifications, chemopreventive agents or drugs to counter the effects of exposure," he said. "Or, among individuals we identify as highly susceptible, we may give them information on the types of occupations they should avoid, for example, or the types of exposures to which they may be particularly sensitive." Co-principal investigator of the consortium is David Eaton, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS-funded UW Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health.

"Many chronic diseases - such as most cancers, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease - are caused by complex interactions between genetics and the exposures to factors in our environment," said Eaton, a professor of environmental health and associate dean for research in the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

"For example, recent research has shown that genetic factors alone account for only 20 to 40 percent of our risks for developing some form of cancer. Factors in our environment, such as diet, smoking and chemical pollutants, interact with our genetics to account for the other 60 to 80 percent of risk.

"The work of the Hutchinson Center/UW Toxicogenomics
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Contact: Kristen Woodward
kwoodwar@fhcrc.org
206-667-5095
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
6-Nov-2001


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