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UCLA Gets $1M to Start Environmental Cancer Pharmacogenetics Program

NEW YORK, March 13 - UCLA's Johnson Cancer Center and its School of Public Health have received a $1 million gift to start an environmental genomics program, the school announced today.


Robert Schiestl, a professor of pathology, environmental health, and radiation oncology at UCLA, will lead the program, which will study SNPs and other genetic factors that predispose people to cancer after exposure to certain environmental toxins.


"We'll investigate the molecular mechanism by which environmental agents such as air pollution, pesticides, and radiation cause cancer and why a certain sub-population of people are more sensitive to these environmental exposures than the general population," Schiestl said in a statement. "It's our goal to develop improved biomarkers of exposure, to identify people at increased risk, and to design nutritional and chemical interventions to counteract the development of cancer, especially in those with increased sensitivity."


Specific projects will look at the impact of air pollution on DNA-induced changes in cellular metabolism; examine the relationship between environmental pollutants, genetics, and a non-smoker's susceptibility to lung cancer; study proteins that inhibit carcinogenesis following exposure to smog, cigarette smoke, and certain cooked foods; and others.


The program is being funded with a $1 million donation by local resident Art Alper, whose wife died from lung cancer last year; the Kenneth Jonsson Family Foundation; and UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation.

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