CHORI Scientist Selected for NIH Complimentary & Alternative Medicine Report
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Office of Complimentary & Alternative Medicine (CAM), which funds scientific research and training in CAM and supports dissemination and integration of proven CAM therapies, has highlighted the research of CHORI scientist Julie Saba, MD, PhD, for inclusion in the National Cancer Institute’s 2007 Annual Report on CAM for Cancer.
“Diet has a big impact on our risk of cancer and other diseases, which makes sense since our body’s exposure to the external environment is greatest at the food/gut interface,” Dr. Saba says.
The research that will be highlighted in the Annual Report on CAM focuses on natural sphingolipid compounds and their effects on colon cancer.
"Sphingolipids control cell growth, blood vessel development, immune function and the cellular response to stress," Dr. Saba explains. "They are made and metabolized by our own bodies, as well as being found in many of the foods we eat, especially soy products which seem to have some preventive effect against colon cancer."
This makes sphingolipids of particular interest in terms of alternative cancer therapies; if sphingolipids or their mechanisms could be harnessed, they could provide a treatment that works with the body's natural mechanisms and could impact the cancer without having a toxic effect on the rest of the cells in the body.
"Alternative medicine in cancer is particularly important because the approved treatments that we currently have are so toxic," says Dr. Saba. "Researchers are very interested in finding therapies to get at the cancer without the toxicity, either as preventative measures or in combination with conventional treatments after cancer has been diagnosed."A variety of alternative cancer research is currently focused on dietary changes and/or supplements, but what distinguishes Dr. Saba's research in the area of CAM is the scientific rigor involved in Dr. Saba's studies.
"Complementary medicine and conventional medicine are really two sides of the same coin. The first step is to decipher how dietary factors work to prevent cancer. Then this becomes a starting point for developing potent new therapies based on the principles we uncover by studying nature's compounds," says Dr. Saba.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 8:19 AM