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Why is our research important?

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Despite our understanding of the genetics of colorectal cancer (CRC), current treatments are still based on cytotoxic regimens with significant side effects, and patients with advanced diseases have few therapeutic options. The good news is that colorectal cancer may be effectively prevented through diet; among all types of cancer, CRC is most tightly linked with diet. Indeed, diet and nutrition are estimated to explain as much as 30-50% of the worldwide incidence of colorectal cancer. The important question is which diets, foods or nutrients are linked to colorectal cancer. Epidemiological studies have suggested that we should restrict our consumption of red meats while eating lots of vegetables to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. But is that really true? If so, what are the molecular mechanisms? What are other nutrients linked to colorectal cancer?

The most common approach used in the field of nutrition is the human epidemiological study. Unfortunately, epidemiology can never prove causation; it can only show the association between the nutrient and the disease. Also, it is hard to control one’s diet or lifestyle strictly, confounding the dietary factors in question and often leading to mixed results in epidemiological studies. Moreover, epidemiological studies don’t tell us the molecular mechanisms of the relationship between the nutrient and the disease. Our team's mission is to create a new domain of nutrition and cancer research using our multidisciplinary approach ('What?') and experimental model systems and technologies ('How?').

In the end, we aim to achieve three things.

  • Identification of Nutrients that can affect colorectal cancer development

  • Understanding the molecular mechanisms linking nutrients and colorectal cancer development

  • Applications of our discovery to make the world a better place