Chemoprevention backgrounder: Working for a future of cancer chemoprevention

by M. D. Anderson researchers. Those compounds are retinoids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), calcium compounds and selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).

The research represents a completely new way of thinking about cancer, says Waun Ki Hong, M.D., head of the Division of Cancer Medicine at M. D. Anderson. "Cancer doesn't begin with the appearance of a tumor, just as cardiac disease doesn't start with a heart attack," he says.

"And just as we can control the risk of a heart attack with medication, we want to control the process of cancer development with drugs and supplements," says Hong, who is credited as a national pioneer in the chemoprevention movement, an effort he started at the Boston VA Medical Center before he moved to M. D. Anderson in 1984. In 2003, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation (CRPF) recognized Hong with its second annual AACR-CRPF Award for Excellence in Cancer Prevention Research. The previous year's inaugural award went to Michael B. Sporn, M.D., of Dartmouth Medical School, for his work on the basic science of chemoprevention.

"As complicated as cancer is, oncology is decades behind cardiology in this respect, but we will get there. It is just going to require a lot of patience and hard work."

Adds Bernard Levin, M.D., vice president for Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at M. D. Anderson, "Our work will never be done until we can say that we have reduced the risk of developing cancer very substantially - perhaps down to zero."

The retinoid story - first bid to reverse damage When Hong began his work on chemoprevention three decades ago, researchers knew very little about the genetic changes that push a normal cell to divide and survive - the cross-circuitry that produces cancer. And they were still honing use of the tools that helped them cut out tumors (surgery), zap cancer from outside (radiation)

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

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