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NCI to Fund Molecular Research into Cancer-Fighting Foods

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Cancer Institute aims to fund research using genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic technologies to discover the molecular events that cause some foods, such as chocolate, pomegranate, and soy, to appear to have cancer-fighting qualities, according to a new funding announcement.

NCI will grant up to $275,000 over two years to support exploratory molecular research into the bioactive components in food and in diets that have been shown to alter tumor cell behavior and cancer risk in humans and other animals.

There already is evidence that several components of food have properties to influence hormonal regulation, cell signaling, cell cycle control, apoptosis, differentiation, carcinogen metabolism, and inflammation, but how they do so is unknown.

For example, polyphenols, found in grapes, peanuts, and soybeans, repress the expression of the androgen receptor and lower the level of a fundamental biomarker for prostate cancer. And a polyphenolic constituent in green tea has been shown to inhibit insulin-like growth factor-1, and may be involved in suppressing prostate, breast, and colon cancer cells.

Such phenomena have been observed, according to NCI, but "the vast majority of food components have not been adequately examined in terms of their molecular targets and their relevance to cancer prevention using an appropriate preclinical model."

"Since various cancer processes can be influenced by transcriptional, translational, and post-translational mechanisms, the use and variety of genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic technologies are appropriate," NCI said in the funding announcement.

Scientists may propose to study either the identification of active food constituents or to characterize their molecular targets, but a study of both would be too broad.

Resources that contain biomolecular data, including gene, protein, and metabolome databases, may be used to expedite research, and bioinformatic approaches may be used to identify patterns of gene and protein metabolite changes that can generate unique fingerprints for certain dietary treatments. The compounds in these studies should be researched in dietary and not pharmaceutical levels of ingestion, said NCI.