Chemoprevention backgrounder: Working for a future of cancer chemoprevention

Nowadays, a vial of blood taken by a family physician can sometimes forecast a person's risk of heart disease, and cholesterol-lowering drugs as well as a daily baby aspirin may be recommended to curb the threat. But in the future, a simple finger prick also may predict which cancers are destined to develop in an individual, years, even decades, down the road.

And based on a person's unique genetics - the milieu of factors that repair DNA damage, or push cells to grow - the patient of tomorrow also may be given a recipe of drugs that will prevent or delay those cancers from ever developing.

Their cocktail of cancer preventives might include refined forms of aspirin to prevent colon and breast cancer, trace minerals to protect against prostate cancer, or proven versions of ancient remedies, such as turmeric spice for breast cancer and good ole' cups of green tea daily, to repress oral cancer.

At the moment, a complete "chemoprevention" strategy - the use of a natural or synthetic substance to reduce the risk of developing cancer - is a goal to be reached in the future. By all accounts, routine use of such agents won't be here for a long time because much more needs to be understood about the changes that push a cell to become cancerous before that process can be stalled or reversed.

Still, more and more of the research effort at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center is devoted to finding such preemptive strikes - ways to block cancer from ever starting or from becoming clinically apparent.

M. D. Anderson was among the first to look for agents that may help prevent cancer - some three decades ago - and now is seen as a national leader in the field of chemoprevention. In fact, four of five classes of chemopreventive agents the National Cancer Institute has said are promising and so are "considered priority substances for study" are being investigated here, and some of the efforts involve national trials being led

Contact: Nancy Jensen
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

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