The colon is a vital organ and plays an important role in many physiological processes such as digestion, absorption, secretion and defense. However, as the aging process occurs, the colon experiences a gradual decline of physiological function that is often associated with many colonic disorders including colon cancer. Uthayashanker Ezekiel, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Laboratory Science, was awarded a President's Research Fund grant on the project entitled, "Targeting epigenetics for colon cancer prevention by phytochemicals." Dr. Ezekiel's grant focuses on the effect of diet-derived phytochemicals on colon cancer cell proliferation. Phytochemicals are found in foods such as whole grains, vegetables, beans, fruits and herbs.
The goal of the grant is to screen phytochemicals to identify the most potent inhibitors of colon cancer cell growth. The grant will focus on optimal concentration and length of exposure of phytochemicals, alone or in combination, to inhibit colon cancer cell growth in hopes that the outcome will promote lifestyle changes to prevent or eliminate colon cancer initiation or progression. Potentially, dietary decisions and habits may reduce the incidence of colon cancer.
Colon cancer has become a rising health risk especially in those over the age of 40. Occurrence dramatically increases with age. Overall, 90 percent of new cases occur in people age 50 and older. While there are many influences, several scientific and epidemiological studies have made strong associations between colon cancer and dietary factors. The American Cancer Society has identified colon cancer as a major priority because the application of existing knowledge has such great potential to prevent cancer and save lives. Results from this grant will provide preliminary data necessary to apply for future grants to further study the effects of food components on cancer prevention.