Preventing Cancer

It’s better to prevent cancer than to treat it.

That’s the idea behind Rutgers’ Center for Cancer Prevention Research, one of the few research institutions dedicated to the prevention of cancer.

Cancer research typically focuses on treatment. But what if researchers could uncover ways to prevent cancer—and, in doing so, save countless lives and billions of dollars spent treating cancer? The Center for Cancer Prevention Research, based at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, views that as its mission—looking for ways of preventing cancer before it strikes.

Relevance for Cancer Treatments

Though the center focuses on cancer prevention, its work often holds promise for treatment breakthroughs, as well. The center seeks to move developments in the lab into clinical drug trials, doctors’ offices, hospitals—and everyday lives.

Everyday lives? Yes, that’s right.

Research from the center may one day lead people to change their eating habits, for instance, or take medicines targeted at those with a genetic risk for a specific cancer.

Discoveries with Promise

Scientists from the center have made these discoveries:

Caffeine kills sun-damaged skin cells. Caffeine is being investigated as a novel approach for the prevention of skin cancer in humans. What’s more, caffeine and exercise may inhibit sunlight-induced skin cancer. This combination is being tested as an approach to prevent the most prevalent cancer in the United States—with more than one million cases per year.

Two common drugs delay tumor progression. Patients who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer and have relapsed are now receiving the two-drug combo—celecoxib, an anti-inflammatory agent, and atorvastatin, a cholesterol fighter—as an approach for slowing or preventing tumor growth.

Green tea inhibits tumor development. Patients with colon cancer and with head and neck cancer are being treated with anticancer chemicals in green tea in two clinical trials.

The removal of abdominal fat reduces skin cancer in mice. Rutgers scientists have found that the surgical removal of abdominal fat from mice fed a high-fat diet reduces the risk of ultraviolet-light induced skin cancer—the most prevalent cancer in the United States. Scientists still don’t know what effect fat removal would have on humans.