Carcinogenesis and Cancer Prevention

Cancer is now the leading cause of death for those younger than 85 years old.  The number of cancer death continues to increase.  Despite great effort in developing cancer therapies, quite often, there are limited treatment options for late-stage disease due to heterogeneity and complexity of advanced cancers.  On the other hand, it is estimated that up to 50% of cancer deaths could be prevented through modifiable lifestyle factors and appropriate use of available screening for early detection of cancers. 

Cancer is caused by abnormal and unregulated cell growth and/or cell death due to genetic and epigenetic alterations of driver genes.  Chronic inflammation contributes to the development of many types of cancer. It has been recognized that dietary factors play a prominent role in cancer prevention and modulate inflammatory responses.  Primary cancer prevention involves healthy life style including healthy diets and exercise.  Secondary prevention refers to preventing cancer progression in high risk individuals who have acquired genetic mutations via inherited propensity, or aging related mutations.

Cancer prevention research in the Department of Nutrition Science has been ongoing for many years, including broad topics such as cancer prevention via dietary factors including vitamin D, vitamin E forms and other plant-based bioactives, and identifying risk factors such as obesity and exploring the underlying mechanisms of this risk.  The faculty involved in cancer related projects have broad expertise, from molecular and cellular to animal models to population studies.  In addition, there are strong collaborations with other INP faculty and the unique Purdue University Center for Cancer Research (PUCCR).

Contributors in the Department

Resources Available

In addition to the excellent laboratory facilities in the department of Nutrition Science, other campus wide resources and collaborations are available to further foster the research in cancer prevention.

An important resource on campus is the Purdue Cancer Center. The Cancer Center is one of just eight NCI-designated basic-research Cancer Centers in the United States. The Center is committed to helping cancer patients by identifying new molecular targets and designing future agents and drugs for effectively detecting and treating cancer. In addition, the Indiana Elks Cancer Research Program was established at Purdue University in 1948. Since then, the Indiana Elks Charities, Inc. has provided continual, generous support to the program. In 2002, cumulative donations reached over $2,370,000. The Purdue Cancer Center uses all donations from the Indiana Elks to directly support cancer research, either through the funding of individual and collaborative research grants or the purchase of critical equipment. The core facilities are available to all researchers campus wide.

The Cancer Center's core services include:

Analytical Cytology

DNA Sequencing

Drug Discovery

Macromolecular Crystallography

Mass Spectrometry

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

Transgenic mouse core


The International Breast Cancer and Nutrition (IBCN) project, which is co-led by Connie Weaver, has significant engagement efforts. The IBCN sponsors an annual international symposium.  Adobe Connect has been used to present information on nutrition and breast cancer to extension educators.  Future plans are to continue dissemination of research results via Adobe Connect as well as consumer related eduational information.


Information on this area permeates the undergraduate curriculum.  For example, lectures in NUTR 10500 and NUTR 31500 present the concept of cancer prevention and results, including results from the Nutrition Science faculty.  The Department of Nutrition Science offers a graduate level course, Nutrition and Cancer Prevention.  In addition, Nutrition and Genetics is also offered on a regular basis with many examples being focused on cancer.

Dorothy Teegarden is also director and PI of the NIH funded Cancer Prevention Internship Program.  The objective of this campus-wide program is to develop and test a curriculum for cross-training students to effectively address the diverse field of cancer prevention and that can be applied to other interdisciplinary research topics.  The program supports four graduate students for a full year and ten undergraduates for a full time summer research experience and supports work in research during the academic year.

Department of Nutrition Science, 700 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2059(765) 494-8228, Fax: (765) 494-0674

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