Dr. Peter Sacks in his laboratory
NYUCD Receives $1 Million-Plus NIH Grant to Study Why Precancerous
Cells Become Cancer
Dr. Peter Sacks,
an associate professor of basic science and craniofacial biology,
has received a grant in excess of $1 million from the NIH to investigate
the characteristics of precancerous lesions in the mouth that allow
them to outgrow normal cells and become malignant. Dr. Sacks is
one of the very few people in the world who has been able to develop
and maintain premalignant cell lines. His objective is to determine
how to prevent cells that are not normal but are not malignant either,
as in leukoplakia, for example, from overgrowing and becoming cancer.
By looking at
early manifestations of disease, Dr. Sacks hopes to identify the
characteristics of premalignant cells that give them an advantage
in growth, so that when insulted by smoking, drinking, and other
risk factors, they are ripe to become cancer. He is also looking
at tissue cultures of premalignant cell lines, normal epithelium,
and bona fide cancer cells, to see how they interact, and how, by
manipulating the cells, abnormal cells can be prevented from overgrowing
and becoming cancer.
years, we have been focusing on prevention, explains Dr. Sacks.
The idea of chemoprevention is to find an agent that suppresses
the disease and puts it on hold. That way, a patient can live the
rest of his or her life, not have cancer, and not be forced to have
a lesion removed that may or may not become cancer. One potentially
chemopreventive agent under investigation is curcumin, a spice that
gives curry its yellow color, and has been shown in studies to inhibit
the growth of abnormal cells.
grant will run for five years.