You are what you eat…maybe

Global task force tackles problem of untreatable cancers and disease relapse: non-toxic chemicals in plants and foods may be key

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NEW YORK CITY—Researchers at The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and 22 institutions from around the country have identified several non-toxic chemicals found in plants and foods that may improve patient cancer outcomes in most cancers. Their review was published in a special issue of Elsevier’s peer-reviewed journal, Seminars in Cancer Biology.
The review by a 180-member task force assembled by Canadian NGO “Getting to Know Cancers,” nominated a series of 74 high-priority molecular targets that could improve patient outcomes in most cancers. This was the first time a large-scale problem has ever been considered by teams of experts able to interpret the full spectrum of cancer biology and incorporate what is now known about non-toxic chemicals with anti-cancer effects. Many of the chemicals selected for review were from plants and foods.
“Combinations of a number of non-toxic chemicals, many of which can be found in plants and foods, may give us a chance to stop untreatable cancers and prevent disease,” said Randall Holcombe, M.D., deputy director of The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and co-author of the review. Holcombe was invited to participate in this initiative because of his previous research of resveratrol, a compound found in grapes and red wine and genistein, a soy-derived nutrient protein for the prevention and treatment of colon cancer.
Many cancer therapies are highly toxic, and even when they appear to work, a significant percentage of patients will experience a relapse after only a few months. Typically these relapses result from a small group of mutated cells which are resistant to therapy, and doctors who try to address this problem with combinations of therapies find that treatment toxicity typically limits their ability to stop most cancers.
To tackle this problem, a task force of 180 scientists from Mount Sinai and other prominent institutions formed interdisciplinary teams who nominated a series of high-priority molecular targets (74 in total) that could improve patient outcomes in most cancers.
“We are extremely encouraged by the degree of consensus that we found within this large group of researchers,” said Keith I. Block, M.D., the medical and scientific director of the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Skokie, Illinois, and lead author of the review. “We believe that carefully designed combinations of non-toxic chemicals can be developed in a manner that will maximize our chance of stopping most cancers. Currently, clinicians have a limited number of tools to help them treat the disease once it becomes resistant to mainstream therapy, but an approach that can reach a broad-spectrum of targets without toxicity offers considerable promise.” 
“This is an area that merits considerable attention and where interdisciplinary and international collaboration is needed,” said Dean Felsher, M.D., Ph.D., a project contributor from the Department of Medicine at Stanford University. “Our approaches to therapy are improving, but we need a breakthrough that can help us address the problem of relapse.”
The taskforce wanted to produce an approach to therapy that would also have the potential to be very low cost, so this approach may hold considerable promise for low-middle income countries where many of the latest cancer therapies are deemed unaffordable. 
The Tisch Cancer Institute (TCI) is a world-class translational cancer institute established in December 2007. TCI has recruited more than 30 acclaimed physicians and researchers specializing in basic research, clinical research, and population science; built outstanding programs in solid tumor oncology; enhanced existing robust programs in hematological malignancies; and advanced the study of cancer immunology and vaccine therapy. The completion of the Leon and Norma Hess Center for Science and Medicine in 2012 enabled the recruitment of 25 additional cancer researchers on two full research floors, with 48,000 square feet of space dedicated to cancer research. In 2015, TCI was named a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. TCI joined an elite group of 69 cancer institutions nationwide that have earned this designation, which is based on scientific excellence, robust clinical research, and beneficial community impact.
The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.

The system includes approximately 6,100 primary and specialty care physicians; 12 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 140 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the renowned Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the highest in the nation in National Institutes of Health funding per investigator. The Mount Sinai Hospital is nationally ranked as one of the top 25 hospitals in eight specialties in the 2014-2015 “Best Hospitals” issue of U.S. News & World Report. Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital also is ranked in seven out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked nationally, while Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, and Mount Sinai Roosevelt are ranked regionally.

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