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Drugs, hamburgers and wine - causes and prevention of cancer

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Drugs, hamburgers and wine - causes and prevention of cancer

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Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Health and also in Education

Professor Karen Brown Professor Karen Brown

Diet, lifestyle and the environment are all factors attributed to the cause of the majority of cancer cases and it has been estimated that up to half of all cancers may be preventable according to research by a University of Leicester scientist.

Professor Karen Brown from the Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine will discuss her research in her inaugural lecture ‘Drugs, hamburgers and wine - causes and prevention of cancer’ on Tuesday, 25 June.

In the lecture, she will explain that there is some evidence that certain dietary constituents such as fibre, fruit and vegetables may help protect against particular cancers.

Chemicals derived from the diet, such as resveratrol which can be found in red wine and peanuts, and curcumin, a constituent of the curry spice turmeric, are considered an attractive alternative to drugs as they are likely to have a favourable safety profile.

Professor Brown said: “My research to date has focussed on two overlapping aspects of cancer prevention; initially I was interested in understanding how DNA-damaging chemicals such as the drug tamoxifen which is used for breast cancer treatment and prevention, and the food mutagen PhIP, which is formed in meat upon cooking, cause cancer.

Building on from this work, researchers at the University of Leicester have been developing natural chemopreventive agents that people can take to lower their chances of developing cancer, without the risk of serious side effects.

Professor Brown added: “There is increasing evidence from clinical trials that cancer chemoprevention in humans is feasible. However, it is vital that the agents used are absolutely safe since they will be taken on a long-term basis by high-risk healthy people, and this has ruled out several promising pharmaceutical drugs that can cause serious side effects.

“We have therefore concentrated our efforts on naturally occurring compounds. As a group, our research spans the discovery of new chemopreventive agents, preclinical screening, and elucidation of the mechanisms of action through to early phase clinical trials. I will share some of our recent highlights and the challenges we face in translating these agents from our laboratory to the clinic, along with some of our ambitions and hopes for the future.”

‘Drugs, hamburgers and wine - causes and prevention of cancer’ will be held in Lecture Theatre 1 in the Ken Edwards Building at 5:30pm and is free and open to the public. A reception will follow afterwards in the City Lounge.

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