U-M and Israel launch major international cancer study

ANN ARBOR---MI Researchers at the University of Michigan and the KHC National Center of Cancer Control in Haifa, Israel, have been awarded a $4.8 million grant to study genetic aspects of colon cancer. The five-year study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, will examine how genetic susceptibility to cancer may be modified by diet, medications, and lifestyle.

The Molecular Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer study will identify and interview more than 2,000 individuals in Israel who have colon cancer and compare them to a cancer-free group of equal size. Investigators hope to learn why some people who carry genes that increase their risk of colon cancer develop tumors while others with the same gene do not.

"Colon cancer is a complex disease, and genetic susceptibility is only part of the story," says Stephen Gruber, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator of the study, and assistant professor of internal medicine and epidemiology in the U-M Health System. "Many people with a genetic susceptibility to colon cancer never develop the disease, and we need to figure out why. If we can recognize what protects those people who are most susceptible, it should help us learn how to do a better job preventing colon cancer in all populations."

Researchers elected to conduct the study in Israel because three different ethnic populations there have very different risks of colon cancer. Individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have relatively high rates of colon cancer, whereas colon cancer is rare in people of Arabic descent. Sephardic Jews have an intermediate risk of colon cancer.

"It is not clear why different populations within Israel have such different risks of colon cancer, nor do we understand the influences of immigration," says Gadi Rennert, M.D., Ph.D., co-principal investigator of the study and director of the KHC National Center for Cancer Control at Carmel Medical Center and Technion in Haifa, Israel. "This study should provide insight into

Contact: Peter Barkey
University of Michigan

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