Robyn Stoller, Author at NFCR - Page 4 of 6

Robyn Stoller

Improving the Delivery and Efficacy of Anti-Cancer Therapeutics

In honor of National Medical Laboratory Professional Week, we’d like to highlight a few of the many accomplishments of NFCR-funded scientist, Dr. Rakesh Jain.

About Dr. Rakesh Jain

Rakesh K. Jain, Ph.D., Andrew Werk Cook professor of tumor biology (radiation oncology) at Harvard Medical School and director of the Edwin L. Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology in the radiation oncology department of Massachusetts General Hospital, is a leader in the field of tumor biology – specifically in anti-angiogenic therapy, which looks at thwarting certain types of blood vessel formation.

Dr. Jain’s groundbreaking research represents a paradigm shift for the field of anti-angiogenesis therapy. He demonstrated that anti-angiogenic therapy can normalize the abnormal, leaky blood vessels that usually surround and penetrate tumors and that this therapy improves the delivery of chemotherapy drugs, increases the oxygen content of cancer cells and makes radiation treatments more effective.
Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels and plays a critical role in the growth and spread of cancer.


His work has also uncovered that the patients whose tumor blood flow increased in response to anti-angiogenesis therapy survived longer. Normalizing abnormal blood flow (known as vascular normalization) offers unprecedented opportunities to improve the treatment of cancer and various vascular disorders, including age-related macular degeneration—a leading cause of blindness.

Attacking the Deadliest Brain Cancer

Most recently, Dr. Jain has been studying the role angiogenesis plays in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the deadliest form of brain cancer. Dr. Jain’s research is helping doctors better tailor the use of anti-angiogenic therapies by identifying the characteristics that cause resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy for GBM patients. Dr. Jain and his team have identified molecular resistance pathways that may direct the development of new drugs that target these pathways and could extend the benefits of anti-angiogenic therapies for patients.

Because GBM invades healthy tissues near the tumor, Dr. Jain is currently testing inhibitors that could prevent invasion. Vessel co-option is a process by which cancer cells migrate through and around nearby healthy tissue.  Dr. Jain is identifying genes and pathways that facilitate vessel co-option in order to prevent invasion and improve GBM therapies.

Elected to All 3 Branches of the National Academies

Dr. Jain has helped advance cancer care to where it is today. For his contributions, he was elected to all three National Academies—the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received more than 60 awards and honors, including the National Medal of Science from President Barak Obama. NFCR is proud to have funded Dr. Jain’s research since 1988.  Because of your generosity, we can continue to fund Dr. Jain’s groundbreaking work today.

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Understanding Adaptive Clinical Trials

Testing new treatments is key to successfully treating cancer. Unfortunately, the current model for conducting clinical trials — evaluating the effectiveness of therapies on human subjects — is inefficient, expensive and suffers from high failure rates. To overcome these challenges, the practice of adaptive trials is emerging and has become one of the most promising advancements in cancer research today.

Challenges with traditional clinical trials

Currently, it takes approximately $2.5 billion dollars, 10+ years and thousands of patient volunteers to bring one drug to market.[i] Despite this high cost, over half of phase III oncology trials have negative results or fail to complete. In addition, traditional trials cannot be modified once they begin. Patients get only one opportunity and receive only one treatment.

Adaptive trials literally adapt as evidence accumulates

Adaptive trials do not require years of follow-up to determine whether a new experimental treatment is beneficial. They test multiple treatments and combinations of treatments on patients in parallel and are designed to be continuously updated as researchers use what they learn from each patient to make real-time adjustments as the trial proceeds.

They are flexible by design so adjustments can be made in terms of dosage, subject population or sample size as needed.

In an adaptive trial, if one treatment regimen seems to be more successful, researchers can increase the number of participants receiving that treatment. This is especially important for patients with aggressive cancers as life expectancies are too short for traditional trial timetables. With adaptive trials, ineffective treatments can be shut down early, and new treatments can be initiated quickly enabling patients to receive the most promising treatments faster.

In a latest article published on Science Magazine: “Congress and FDA nominee heap love on ‘adaptive trials”, GBM AGILE is featured as one of the ongoing clinical trials using this new adaptive trial design.

GBM AGILE revolutionizes brain cancer trials

Glioblastoma multiforme (also known as GBM) is the deadliest brain cancer and is widely regarded as incurable and universally fatal, killing 95% of patients within five years of diagnosis. To combat this deadly disease, NFCR is part of a robust, international coalition working on innovative ways to defeat GBM utilizing adaptive trials known as GBM AGILE.

Led by the best and brightest cancer researchers, GBM AGILE is a revolutionary global collaboration to test and develop new brain cancer treatments. Its personalized approach will allow us to accelerate the discovery of targeted treatments for individual patients. This global coalition has attracted over 150 participants from more than 40 leading cancer institutions across three continents. This revolutionary approach accelerates research for curing the aggressive form of brain cancer GBM and will serve as a new clinical research model for combating other cancers as well.

In addition to GBM AGILE, there are other adaptive trials underway for certain cancers and tumor types, with more coming soon.  Other trials include:

  • I-SPY TRIAL is an adaptive clinical trial for women with newly diagnosed, locally advanced breast cancer.
  • Lung-MAP is a large adaptive clinical trial testing several new treatments for patients who have advanced stage squamous cell lung cancer.
  • Precision Promise is the first large-scale precision medicine adaptive trial for patients with pancreatic cancer.

While adaptive trial features are not yet commonplace, Congress and the FDA are focused on accelerating their development to benefit patients.


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The Pioneering Gene Work of Dr. Mary-Claire King

The Szent-Györgyi Prize was established in honor of Nobel laureate Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi, co-founder of NFCR, to recognize outstanding scientific achievement in the war against cancer. Ten years later, “ASG Winners: Then & Now” looks at these winners, their extraordinary contributions and how their discoveries have made possible new approaches to treating cancer.

Dr. Mary-Claire King

The 2016 annual winner of the Szent-Györgyi Prize was Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., American Cancer Society Research Professor of Genetics and Medicine (Medical Genetics) at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 1990, Dr. King was the first to demonstrate that a single gene on chromosome 17q21 (which she named BRCA1) was responsible for breast and ovarian cancer in many families.

Her discovery of the BRCA1 demonstrated that breast and ovarian cancers have a heredity component and proved that gene mutations could predict vulnerability to the disease. This discovery and the approach she developed to identify this cancer gene has revolutionized the study of cancer genomics and has paved the way to determine if other diseases could also be inherited.

What is a Hereditary Cancer Syndrome?

Inherited genetic defects (called mutations) are passed on from a parent and play a major role in about 5 to 10% of all cancers. The approach that Dr. King developed to identify BRCA1 has since linked other mutations in specific genes with more than 50 heredity cancer syndromes or disorders that may predispose individuals to developing certain cancers.

Dr. King’s Discovery of BRCA1

In the 1970’s, very little was known about the causes of cancer. The idea that cancer was fundamentally a genetic disease was not widely accepted. However, early-onset breast and ovarian cancers seemed to disproportionately affect certain families. With a background in genetics and a personal connection to cancer (Dr. King lost her best childhood friend to cancer), Dr. King began a mission to determine if breast cancer could be inherited genetically and if a specific gene mutation could be the culprit.

Over the next 17 years, from 1974-1990, Dr. King worked with human geneticists from around the world- each of whom had their own individual phenotypes of interest—to identify markers in all chromosomes that could be used to trace chromosomal segments, while at the same time studying 1,579 women, trying to prove that some breast cancer cases could be traced to a single gene. Finally, a new technology breakthrough in the early 1980s made it possible to search for pieces of DNA from blood samples enabling Dr. King to narrow the possibilities to a gene located on chromosome 17q21 which she named BRCA1.

Today’s Impact

The winner of the 2015 Szent-Györgyi Prize and 2016 ASG Prize Selection Committee Chairman, Dr. Frederick Alt, Director of Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, said, “Dr. King is the true pioneer and world leader in the research that clearly demonstrated the genetic causes of breast and ovarian cancers by identifying the BRCA1 gene and its cancer-related mutations. Her work has opened a new field that allows scientists to investigate and understand breast and ovarian cancers and other types of genetic diseases with a much more effective approach.”

Dr. King’s discoveries represent a fundamental step in the understanding of cancer and have changed the face of cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment. Subsequent studies have shown that the risks of breast and ovarian cancer among women with BRCA1 mutations are very high, up to a lifetime risk of 80% for breast cancer and greater than 40% lifetime risk for ovarian cancer. These results were first met with skepticism as was her discovery of BRCA1, but are now widely accepted in oncology practice today.

Today, we also now know that the BRCA genes are linked to increased risk of developing for fallopian tube cancer, peritoneal cancer, male breast cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer. Because of Dr. King’s early work, people with BRCA gene mutations can be identified, monitored and counseled to better understand and manage their cancer risk.
“There is no reason now that any woman with BRCA1 or BRCA2 should ever die of breast or ovarian cancer.”
– Dr. Mary-Claire King


Recent Research

Dr. King and her colleagues have recently developed multi-gene capture and parallel sequencing tools to detect all the mutated genes that have been discovered that predispose women to breast and/or ovarian cancer. This screening platform, called BROCA, is now widely used in clinics.
Her current research focuses on identifying and characterizing critical genes – and their interaction with environmental influences – that play a role in the development of conditions such as breast and ovarian cancer, schizophrenia, and hearing loss.


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Garlic: It’s Good For You

Garlic has been used as both food and medicine for thousands of years. Today, it is used to help prevent heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and to boost the immune system. Research has shown that eating garlic regularly may also help protect against cancer.[i]

What makes garlic such a potent disease fighter?

Garlic contains a rich combination of about 20 phytochemicals with antioxidant and antibacterial properties and a wide range of vitamins and minerals including calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C.

Research suggests that eating garlic regularly may help accelerate the process of repairing damaged DNA and may reduce the risk of several cancer types, including stomach, colon, pancreatic and breast cancer.[ii]

Please note: Although the health benefits of garlic are frequently reported, excessive intake can have harmful effects.

Roasted Garlic Chicken

Adapted from the Food Network’s Melissa d’Arabian


  • 8 chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head of garlic, separated into whole cloves, paper skin removed (about 20 cloves)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp herbes de Provence
  • 1 tsp flour (try using almond flour or coconut flour)
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • ½ lemon, juiced


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Salt and pepper chicken liberally. Separate garlic into whole cloves, papery skin removed.
  3. In a large ovenproof sauté pan, cook the whole garlic cloves in olive oil and butter over medium heat. Stir occasionally, until lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove garlic from the pan and set aside. Increase heat to medium-high and brown chicken skin-side down until the skin is golden and crispy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Turn the chicken over, sprinkle on herbes de Provence. Add the garlic back to the pan and place hot pan in oven. Bake the chicken until cooked through, about 25 minutes.
  6. Once the chicken is done, remove chicken thighs and garlic to a platter. Place the pan over medium-high heat and sprinkle the drippings with flour and stir to incorporate. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the chicken on the platter.
  7. Serve with yummy whole grain bread for sauce-mopping and garlic spreading.



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6 Facts You Need to Know About Kidney Cancer

March is National Kidney Cancer Awareness Month and, as this disease continues affecting the lives of so many people every year, it’s important to understand it.


  • Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women.
  • In the United States, an estimated 63,990 people will be diagnosed with kidney cancer this year.
  • While the number of people diagnosed with kidney cancer has been slowly rising since the 1990’s, the death rate has been slowly declining.
  • The overall (all stages included) five-year survival rate for people with kidney cancer is 74%.[i]

Here’s a list of six facts you need to know about kidney cancer. And make sure you read about related work by NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Wayne Marasco.

1. Men are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer.

An estimated 40,610 men and 23,380 women in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with kidney cancer this year.[ii] That means nearly twice as many men will be diagnosed! Yet the exact reasons for this difference are unknown. Possible factors include higher levels of chemical exposure and higher smoking rates. Men are more likely to be smokers and are more likely to be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals at work.[iii]

2. Kidney cancer most often occurs in people over age 55.

The risk for developing kidney cancer increases with age and the average age of diagnosis is 64 years old. Although kidney cancer is very uncommon in people younger than age 45, there is a type of kidney cancer, known as Wilms tumors, that tends to affect children. About 5% of all cancers in children are Wilms tumors.[iv]

3. Smoking and other factors increase risk.

Smoking has been linked with as many as one third of all kidney cancer cases.[v] And if you are a current or former smoker, your risk of developing kidney cancer is twice as high as someone who never smoked. Quitting reduces your risk, even if you’ve smoked for years.

Other major risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure and exposure to chemicals like asbestos and cadmium. In addition, people who receive long-term dialysis to treat kidney failure have a higher risk of developing kidney cancer.

4. Pay close attention to your family history.

Your family history may predispose you to kidney cancer. If you have a first-degree relative (mother, father, brother, sister or child) who was diagnosed with kidney cancer, you are at increased risk of developing the disease. This risk is highest for brothers or sisters of those with the cancer.[vi]

Also, people born with certain inherited syndromes may have an increased risk of kidney cancer, including those who have von Hippel-Lindau disease, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and familial papillary renal cell carcinoma.

5. There are warning signs, but not EARLY warning signs.

Like lung cancer, colorectal cancer and cervical cancer, kidney cancer rarely causes signs or symptoms in its early stages.

Possible warning signs or symptoms may include: blood in your urine (this may be painless and appear one day and not the next); back pain just below the ribs that doesn’t go away and was not caused by injury; weight loss; fatigue; or intermittent fever. If you notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away.

6. Cutting-edge research is helping us attack kidney cancer head on.

Battling Renal Cell Carcinoma with Mabs

For cancer, as well as HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, one possible treatment involves the use of human monoclonal antibodies (Mabs) – which are proteins that scientists develop to bind to only one substance. For cancer treatments, Mabs bind only to cancer cells and produce immunological responses against the cancer cells. There is great promise with Mabs because their tumor-fighting effects would be less harmful to normal cells than that of traditional cancer treatments.

In an effort to greatly expand the use of Mabs in the treatment of cancer, Dr. Wayne Marasco— a world-renowned antibody engineering expert who works on infectious diseases and cancer immunotherapies — and NFCR joined forces to create the NFCR Center for Therapeutic Antibody Engineering. At the Center, Dr. Marasco collaborates with accomplished global cancer investigators in a joint effort to uncover new Mabs using his laboratory’s huge human antibody library.

Most recently, his team at the NFCR Center developed a combination immunotherapy treatment that holds promise for treating metastatic kidney cancer more effectively. The immunotherapy they have engineered includes not only the CAIX antibody that detects and binds to CAIX growth-promoting proteins on cancerous kidney cells, but also unblocks T cells to enable more rigorous attacks against cancer. Moreover, this double treatment approach could be adapted to treat advanced colon, breast, brain and other difficult-to-treat solid cancers using different antibodies.


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NFCR-Funded Project in Early 2000s Leads to Progress Today in Computational Drug Design

InhibOx Receives Investment to Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria

The National Foundation for Cancer Research is delighted that computer-aided drug-resistance research is now getting increased funding across the pond! NFCR lauds the selection of InhibOx Ltd. as the company to receive a nearly £1 million grant from Innovate UK to continue research into novel anti-resistance, cancer-fighting antibiotics.

“What started out as the ScreenSaver Life Saver project by the NFCR Centre for Computational Drug Design in 2000 has become a global research phenomenon that is supported by hundreds of millions of dollars today,” said NFCR President Sujuan Ba, Ph.D. “It takes a long, long time for that first seed investment in research to reach the translational and clinical stages, but when you prioritize innovative projects, it does pay off. It is incredibly rewarding to follow the successes of InhibOx and see how our global work almost two decades ago set the stage for current advances in the critical medical research community.

InhibOx Ltd. was founded in 2001 and built off the pioneering Screensaver LifeSaver project, in which NFCR teamed with technology companies Intel, United Devices and the University of Oxford to turn personal computers into a virtual supercomputer to be used in the discovery of new drugs to combat cancer. InhibOx was specifically created as a spin-off company by Professor Graham Richards, Chairman of the University of Oxford’s Chemistry Department, Director of the NFCR Centre for Computational Drug Design and a leader of the Screensaver LifeSaver Project.

Speaking about the Screensaver LifeSaver project in 2001, Professor Richards said, “This is the largest computational chemistry project ever undertaken.”

Question: What was the NFCR Centre for Computational Drug Design?

Answer: NFCR, a U.S.-based charity, provided funding for a ground-breaking global effort to discover anti-cancer drugs.

NFCR provided over $2.25 million in funding from 1983 to 2010 to Professor Graham Richards’ research on computational drug design, which later lead to the establishment of the NFCR Centre for Computational Drug Design at the University of Oxford. The centre was a virtual consortium that included researchers from several European countries and the ScreenSaver LifeSaver Project stemmed from the work in this centre.

Flashback: The Screensaver LifeSaver Project

The Screensaver LifeSaver Project encouraged owners of personal computers worldwide to download software that enabled researchers to utilize unused computer power and create a virtual supercomputer to study over 1.5 billion molecules.

In 2001, Franklin C. Salisbury Jr., CEO of NFCR said, “This technology gives individuals a chance to use their idle computer time to assist in the discovery of new drugs to combat cancer.”

And after years of collecting data, the Screensaver LifeSaver Project used the idle time of over 3.5 million personal computers linked through the internet to computationally screen a large database of molecular structures. From 2000-2007, more than 3.5 billion drug-like molecules were screened against 12 cancer targets, which yielded tens of thousands of lead compounds that were analyzed by science project leaders and used to identify new anti-drug candidates.

Where Are We Now?

Today, InhibOx – which will soon be called Oxford Drug Design – applies 3D chemical database technologies to drug discovery, and the newly-announced grant will allow the company to continue a multi-drug resistance effort. So far, they have discovered new molecules with activity against a range of Gram-negative bacteria and the money from Innovate UK will be used on drug design improvements in this project.

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The Amazing Antioxidants in Artichokes

Often seen on menus in dips or on the top of salads, artichokes are a superfood in every sense of the word. They are a naturally rich source of vitamins A, K, C, B-6, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and zinc.

Research has shown that artichokes can help strengthen the immune system, lower cholesterol, detoxify the liver and may also protect against cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Artichokes are high in fiber and can help ease digestive issues, reduce blood pressure and even eliminate hangovers.[i]

Cancer-Preventing Antioxidants

Artichokes contain the highest levels of antioxidants of any vegetable (polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins among others) and are loaded with an army of beneficial nutrients that can protect the body from cancer.
One artichoke supplies 25% of the recommended daily requirement of vitamin C. Studies have shown that people with high intakes of vitamin C from fruits and vegetables might have a lower risk of getting many types of cancer, including lung, breast and colon cancer.[ii]

Artichokes are also a great source of silymarin, a flavonoid antioxidant that may help prevent skin cancer.[iii]

Adding Artichokes to Your Diet

It’s easy to start eating more artichokes — you can grill them, bake them, add them to your favorite salads or pasta or team them up with spinach to make a delicious cancer-fighting dip.

Super Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Adapted from a recipe by the Mayo Clinic Staff


  • 2 cups artichoke hearts
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 4 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 teaspoon minced thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1 cup white beans, prepared
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream


  • Mix all ingredients together.
  • Put in glass or ceramic dish and bake at 350˚ F for 30 minutes.
  • Serve with whole-grain bread, crackers or vegetables for dipping.




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Top Nutrition Tips to Cut Your Cancer Risk


March is National Nutrition Month, so let’s talk about some cancer-fighting benefits of making healthy food choices. What you eat and what you don’t eat has a powerful effect on your health. Maintaining a healthy weight and nourishing your body with certain foods is key to good health and to reducing your risk of cancer.

Although there’s no one diet program that is right for everyone, it’s important to have some sort of healthy-eating plan. So, put your best fork forward with these five cancer-fighting strategies.

1. Know your healthy weight & maintain it

People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of many serious health conditions, including cancers. To control weight gain, it’s about knowing what weight is healthy for you and maintaining that weight. (No, a few pounds here or there shouldn’t lead to extreme dieting, but knowing yourself and your ideal body weight is key.)

Maintaining a healthy weight throughout life can lower your risk of breast, uterine, prostate, lung, colon, kidney, pancreatic, esophageal, multiple myeloma, gallbladder, gastric, ovarian and thyroid cancers.

2. Replace one processed item a day with real food

Processed foods aren’t just microwavable meals – the term ‘processed food’ applies to foods that have been altered from their natural state in some way (and it can be for a variety of reasons, including safety, aesthetic desirability and convenience). Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are often added to processed foods, which leads to the consumption of these additives at more than the recommended amount.

But a few simple swaps can make a big difference in how you look and feel – and can also help lower your risk of cancer.
* Grab an apple or an orange instead of cookies.
* Substitute cucumbers and baby carrots for crackers. (Dip them hummus for a tasty treat!)
* Replace soda with a glass of water or sparkling water. Water helps your body get rid of toxins that put you at risk for diseases like cancer.

(Bonus tip – the perimeter of the supermarket usually contains natural foods and the center aisles contain processed foods… so stay on the border to stay healthier.) 

3. Add superfoods to your diet

Superfoods are nutrient powerhouses that contain large doses of cancer-fighting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
* Add dark green veggies like spinach, broccoli and kale to your salads and omelets.
* Snack on a handful of raw almonds or roasted pumpkin seeds instead of a bag of chips.
* Also, check out some of our favorite cancer-fighting recipes that contain superfoods.

4.  Limit red and processed meats

Research shows that people who eat more red meat (beef, pork and lamb) and processed meats (like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and salami) have a higher risk of developing colorectal and prostate cancers. Although there is not scientific consensus, the observed increased risk is often explained by the high iron and fat content in red meat and/or the salt and nitrates in processed meat. Additionally, cooking meats at a very high temperature can create chemicals on your food that may increase your cancer risk.
Need some red meat alternatives? Try some of our favorite cancer-fighting recipes like Rainbow Salsa (with grilled fish or chicken) and Pumpkin Soup (with a Garlic, Kale and Sesame Topping).

5. Reduce your alcohol intake

Although moderate alcohol use has possible health benefits, it’s also not risk-free. Excessive use can cause liver damage, heart problems and even cancer. To reduce your lifetime risk of cancer, NFCR recommends: On average, men should not consume more than 2 drinks per day and women should not consume more than 3 drinks per week


Preventative Cancer Research

A proactive way to reduce the number of patients dying from cancer is to prevent the disease from developing in the first place. That’s why NFCR-sponsored researchers have been investigating cancer prevention methodologies – and specifically links between nutrition and cancer – for decades. 

Scientist Dr. Helmut Sies¸ whose work was funded by NFCR for over 30 years, discovered that the antioxidant lycopene, a micronutrient found in tomatoes and other foods, can reduce the damaging effects of oxygen produced by our body’s essential metabolic processes. Lycopene has strong skin cancer prevention effects. His more recent research was focused on selenium, a trace metal found in certain foods that is essential for good health. There is evidence that selenium improves human health and helps prevent cancer – specifically colon cancer.  *Prevention tip: Read about how to add selenium to your diet.

Additionally, during his career, Dr. Sies studied essential fatty acids that can prevent inflammation and cellular signaling pathways in cancer development, and looked at the role of nitric oxide in cancer and heart disease-related events.


Dr. Michael Sporn, whose research was supported by NFCR, is known as the “Father of Chemoprevention” because his work led to the development of several synthetic triterpenoid compounds. These compounds are a class of chemical agents that have potent preventative effects against several types of cancer, including breast, lung and pancreatic cancers.

For individuals with a family history (or are otherwise at high risk of developing these diseases), the promising results of Dr. Sporn’s research offers hope that their chances of developing cancer could be dramatically reduced with the use of chemoprevention.

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Start Your Day Right with Cancer-Preventing, Nutrition-Packed Pancakes

Tuesday, March 7th is National Pancake Day! You can celebrate by trying our favorite sugar-free banana oat pancakes.

Research links certain types of cancers to obesity, so it’s smart to avoid too much of the typical calorie-laden indulgence. Luckily, we have a nutritious, delicious twist for you!

And don’t forget your cup of coffee – it’s a good is source of B vitamin riboflavin and contains antioxidant phytochemicals that may help prevent cancers of the colon, liver, pancreas and skin.

Banana Oat Pancakes with a Twist


  • 1 ½ cups almond milk, coconut milk or soy milk
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 bananas, chopped
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour or coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon flaxseed (optional)


  1. In a blender, puree almond milk and oats until smooth. Add bananas, flour, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and baking powder and puree a few seconds more. Let batter rest 10 minutes.
  2. Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Mist with nonstick cooking spray or clarified butter (also known as ghee), then scoop batter into pan. Reduce heat to medium low and cook pancakes until air bubbles appear and underside is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook about 5 minutes more.
  3. Top with sliced bananas, strawberries, blueberries or dark chocolate chips if you like. And serve with real maple syrup.

Fun Facts to Flip Over

  • The earliest known pancakes were made about 12,000 years ago from ground grains and nuts, mixed with water or milk and cooked on hot stones.
  • In France, people like to make a wish before flipping their pancakes. They do this while holding a coin in the other hand.
  • Before baking soda was invented, cooks often used fresh snow as it contained ammonia, which helped the pancakes come out fluffy and soft.
  • The largest pancake in the world measured 15 meters in diameter. weighed almost 3 tons and contained 2 million calories.
  • William Shakespeare was a pancake lover! It is reflected in several of his plays.


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9 Must-Know Facts About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) continues to affect millions of men and women worldwide, and understanding the disease and what we can do to prevent it is the first step toward a cure.

Colorectal Cancer Statistics

  • Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the U.S.
  • Although the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for the past 30 years, it is still the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.
  • The overall lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is: 1 in 21 for men and 1 in 23 for women.[i]
  • There are currently more than one million colorectal cancer survivors in the U.S.[ii]

Here’s a list of nine facts you need to know about colorectal cancer. And make sure you read about related work by NFCR-funded scientists Dr. Wei Zhang, Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, Dr. Laurence Hurley and Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng.

1. With regular screenings, colorectal cancer is preventable.

Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. In many cases, a screening can prevent colorectal cancer by finding and removing polyps before they turn into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most effective.

Studies show that regular screening could prevent 1/3 of colorectal cancer deaths in the U.S. The five-year survival rate is 90% if detected early.[iii]

2. Age is the #1 risk factor for colorectal cancer.

90% of colorectal cancer cases appear in men and women 50 years old or older, and the risk for developing this cancer increases with age. Yet, like most disease trends, this isn’t absolute – younger people can get colorectal cancer too.

3. There are warning signs, but not EARLY warning signs.

Like lung cancer and cervical cancer, colorectal cancer can be hard to detect in its earliest stage. Symptoms can include a change in bowel habits; blood in the stool; diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty all the way; frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness or cramps; weight loss for no known reason; nausea, tiredness and vomiting.[iv] If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.

4. Lifestyle choices impact colorectal cancer risk.

Many lifestyle-related factors are directly linked to colorectal cancer risk. Obesity not only increases your risk of having colorectal cancer by 30%,[v] but it also increases the likelihood of poor treatment outcomes and complications.[vi] Smoking also increases your risk of developing and dying from this type of cancer. One recent study reported that patients with colon cancer who smoke were 14% more likely to die from their colon cancer within five years than patients who had never smoked.[vii]

Other risk factors include heavy alcohol use, lack of exercise and diets high in red and processed meats. Additionally, cooking meats at a very high temperature can create chemicals on your food that may increase your cancer risk.

5. Family history matters.

People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, offspring) who has colorectal cancer have two to three times risk of developing this disease.[viii] A personal or family history of polyps (adenomas) also puts you at higher risk – especially if the polyps are large or if there are many of them.

6. Health conditions can increase your risk.

Your risk of colorectal cancer increases if you have the following conditions: Type 2 diabetes; inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease; and having an inherited syndrome like Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch Syndrome.[ix]

7. Regular colorectal cancer screenings typically begin at age 50.

Because polyps tend to be seen most often in people 50 years of age and older, experts recommend universal screening for colorectal cancer beginning at this age. If you are under 50 and have a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors, talk to your doctor about when you should start regular screening.

8. There are different screening options.

Screening tests can include: colonoscopy; sigmoidoscopy; barium enema; CT colonography or virtual colonoscopy; and at-home tests like the fecal occult blood test, fecal immune testing or stool gene testing.[x] Talk to your doctor to see what screenings are most appropriate for you given your family history, age and lifestyle choices. For more information on cancer screenings, please refer to our.

9. Research helps us attack colorectal cancer – and all types of cancer.

NFCR has distinguished itself from other organizations by emphasizing long-term, transformative research that has the potential to save lives. Our scientists are conducting a wide range of cutting-edge research focused on improving diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer – and all types of cancer.

Studying the system of genes that form colorectal cancer

NFCR Fellow Dr. Wei Zhang

NFCR-funded scientist, Dr. Wei Zhang, is the Director of the Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Precision Oncology Initiative. Dr. Zhang has vast experience identifying biomarkers and genes in colorectal cancer. His current research team is studying how gene expression, gene amplification and mutations relate to and regulate each other. Using data from next-generation sequencing, Dr. Zhang’s team is identifying the genetic drivers or growth-promoting genes of a patient’s cancer.

Dr. Zhang has previously identified microRNAs (miRNAs) as biomarkers to improve colorectal cancer prognosis and predict treatment response. He used blood samples from healthy donors and patients with stage I through IV colorectal cancer, and confirmed that one microRNA molecule – miR-141 – may predict the outcome for stage IV colorectal cancer patients.

Chinese herbal medicine curbs colorectal cancer treatment side effects

NFCR Fellow Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng

For approximately 20 years, with NFCR support, Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng, of Yale University’s School of Medicine, has explored the therapeutic properties of PHY906, a Chinese herbal medicine formula. Dr. Cheng and his laboratory team have discovered that cancer treatment with PHY906, combined with chemotherapy, alleviates
the unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy for colon and rectal cancer patients. Moreover, their research demonstrated that PHY906 also has its own, solo anti-tumor attributes. If there is continued success in clinical trials, PHY906 could become one of the first FDA-approved oral herbal medicines for anti-cancer treatment.

Targeted drug treatment and key colorectal cancer gene

(Left to Right) NFCR Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies Co-Directors Dr. Daniel Von Hoff and Dr. Laurence Hurley

The c-Myc gene is a cancer-causing gene (or oncogene) that is amplified in colorectal cancer and is a tough molecule in terms of finding targets for drug development. NFCR-sponsored scientists Dr. Daniel Von Hoff and Dr. Laurence Hurley are creating drugs to block large clusters of DNA called “super enhancers,” which control the expression of a network of genes – including the critical and seemingly-undruggable c-Myc gene.

Shutting down colorectal cancer through the blood stream

Dr. Harold F. Dvorak

Dr. Harold Dvorak received funding from NFCR for over 30 year and is responsible for the discovery of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). His discovery fostered the entire field of vascular biology and led to the development of VEGF-targeting anti-angiogenic drugs. Unlike other anti-cancer drugs that aim to directly kill tumor cells, drugs that target VEGF cut off the blood supply that tumors need to survive.
In 2004, the VEGF-targeting drug Avastin® was approved by the FDA for the treatment of colorectal cancer. More than 280 clinical trials are currently investigating the use of Avastin® in over 50 tumor types.

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