Chemoprevention backgrounder: Working for a future of cancer chemoprevention

tive. Lotan and associate professor Jonathan Kurie, M.D., discovered in a trial of 226 patients that 9-cis retinoic acid restored health to lung cancer cells that were already precancerous.

Despite the fact that the researchers suspect retinoids may ultimately prove to be too toxic for everyday use, these studies have lead to important insights. And they earned M. D. Anderson four large federal grants of more than $30 million over the past 13 years to expand and build upon its comprehensive lung cancer chemoprevention study. The funds pay for chemoprevention trials as well as parallel genetic, molecular and pharmacologic studies in the lab, says Hong, all aimed at putting a damper on the world's most dangerous cancer.

"Super aspirins" tested in leading cancer killers One third of all cancer cases are associated with smoking tobacco, so, of course, the best way to prevent those cancers is to never pick up a cigarette, or to throw them away.

But while the 45 million people in the United States who have quit smoking have reduced their risk of developing lung cancer, the genetic damage caused by smoking does not entirely disappear, M. D. Anderson researchers say. Half of all newly-diagnosed lung cancers occur in former smokers, and so investigators are trying other ways, besides retinoids, to prevent the genetic damage from turning into cancer.

One of the most promising approaches to lung cancer chemoprevention is the use of a so-called "super aspirin," says Kurie, in the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology.

He is conducting a clinical trial testing whether celecoxib, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) known by the trade name Celebrex, can repair precancerous lung damage in current and former smokers.

Celecoxib works by blocking of cycloxygenase-2, or "COX-2," an enzyme that is over-produced when cells become inflamed. Studies have shown, however, that many tumors, including those for small

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

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