The Center for Cancer Prevention by Dietary Botanicals works to identify, characterize and evaluate the use of dietary botanicals for the prevention of colorectal cancer. The center integrates botanical, chemical, molecular biological and clinical approaches while facilitating interdisciplinary preclinical research and translating preclinical insights into improved clinical prevention strategies for colorectal cancer. Our focus is not only on the complex chemical mixture that constitutes one botanical in the diet but the combination of three botanicals routinely encountered together in the Indian diet: Curcuma longa (turmeric), Piper nigrum (black pepper), and Zingiber officinale (ginger).
Specifically, the center brings together a multidisciplinary research team that systematically evaluates the mechanism of action of three botanicals, singly and in combination, at the cellular, molecular, and (epi)genetic levels in vitro; the relative bioactivity and bioavailability of botanicals and their active ingredients; the preclinical safety and efficacy of these botanicals in multiple animal models; and the tolerability and safety of these botanicals in human subjects.
Long term, the Center aims to strengthen the evidence that these botanicals favorably affect colorectal cancer carcinogenesis and thus to increase the biodiversity and health benefits of the American diet. The ultimate goal is to reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer globally.
The Center is noteworthy for several innovative features, such as:
- The abundance of research methodological expertise brought together under one umbrella: technology (analytical phytochemistry, molecular and biochemical fingerprinting, gene expression arrays, methylation microarrays and microRNA profiling), preclinical models (animal models of spontaneous carcinogenesis, human tissue recombinant xenografts and Bayesian modeling of '-omics' data sets) and clinical trials (all M.D.s on the project are recognized leaders in the prevention and/or treatment of colorectal cancer).
- The unique and specific expertise of personnel, most of whom have worked together on other research activities and at this Center with inflammatory signaling, genomics, stem cells, chemoprevention, complementary medicine, botanicals in clinical trials (key personnel include leaders of ongoing clinical trials of curcumin and novasoy) and pharmacological testing (preclinically and in pharmacokinetic clinical trials).
- The collaboration between recognized centers of cancer expertise (MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas), academic medicinal plant research (Stephen F. Austin State University, College of Forestry and Agriculture, in Nacogdoches Texas), and industry research (McCormick Science Institute).
- Support from a world-leading program at MD Anderson that focuses on integrative oncology and excels in clinical care, education and research.
Why study these botanicals?
An abundance of epidemiological evidence suggests that the causes of colorectal cancer (CRC) are largely diet-related and/or environmental. People who migrate from low-risk to high-risk prevalence areas of the world acquire a risk of development of CRC that closely parallels that in the high-risk country within one or two generations. In these migration studies the key characteristic has been a change from a prudent diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains) to a more “Western” diet with higher intake of energy-dense foods (meats and carbohydrates), which suggests that the changes in diet are at least partly responsible for the increase in risk.
Furthermore, because food-derived compounds are constantly present in the intestine, it is reasonable to propose a key role for diet in regulating the homeostasis of the intestinal mucosa. Much attention has been devoted to identifying specific active dietary principles that might confer protection from colorectal carcinogenesis.
In this regard, the Indian diet has been the focus of much scrutiny because the incidence of CRC in the Indian subcontinent is among the lowest in the world and many purported active ingredients of Indian spices have demonstrated potent preclinical chemopreventive activity. In contrast to investigations devoted to the study of single active principles given in relatively high doses as additions to the background diet, we are interested in evaluating the overall influence of an Indian dietary pattern on cancer risk.
Our focus is not only on the complex chemical mixture that constitutes one botanical in the Indian diet but the combination of three such botanicals routinely encountered together in the Indian diet: Curcuma longa (turmeric), Piper nigrum (black pepper), and Zingiber officinale (ginger).