BackgroundIt is estimated that approximately 30% of all cancer deaths are associated with diet, an impact similar to that of tobacco use. Several large-scale epidemiological studies have shown that, among the various aspects of our diet that are more closely associated with cancer, an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, of foods containing probiotics and of green tea, to name but a few, is associated with a reduced risk of developing many types of cancer. It is now a well-established fact that these foods contain (non-nutritive) phytochemical molecules that may prevent and even stop cancer cells from growing.
Chair in Cancer Prevention and TreatmentThe mission of the UQAM Chair in Cancer Prevention and Treatment, which was created in 2004, is to develop a dynamic research program committed to identifying compounds in our diet that possess preventive and therapeutic properties and to use these compounds for therapeutic purposes in order to reduce the incidence and development of cancer in the population.
The Molecular Medicine Laboratory in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Quebec at Montreal is comprised of a multidisciplinary team recognized worldwide for its work on cancer prevention. The team has five senior researchers who supervise the work of approximately twenty graduate students, as well as a dozen research technicians working on various aspects of cancer research.
The Chair in Cancer Prevention and Treatment at UQAM was made possible through the generosity of three major partners: National Bank, Manulife Financial and Metro Inc. Without their commitment and conviction, the creation of the Chair would not have been possible.
Preventing Cancer with...Fruits and Vegetables!One of the research axes of the Chair is to identify the species and cultivars of fruits and vegetables both imported and grown in Quebec that are the most active in terms of anti-cancer activity. The primary mechanisms of anti-cancer action in the molecules present in our diet that have been identified to date are:
- The destruction of cancer cells directly via apoptosis, the process of programmed cell death that is harmless to the organism;
- The destruction of cancer cells indirectly by inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), a process that is essential for tumour growth;
- The prevention of the transformation of healthy cells into cancer cells caused by the oxidation of various cellular components, in particular DNA. Several phytochemical molecules may be involved in the destruction of cancer cells. These include isothiocyanates (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), genistein (soy) and resveratrol (grapes, peanuts). The most well-known molecules for their anti-oxidant properties include vitamin C (fruits, parsley), polyphenols (grapes, blueberries and other small berries) and resveratrol (grapes). Angiogenesis is inhibited by genistein, resveratrol, capsaicin (chilli peppers) and luteolin (thyme, mint).
An Instrument of Information and ChangeThe benefits that some foods may have for cancer prevention and public health are still not well known to the public at large. The results of scientific experiments are often published in specialized journals that are not always accessible to the public. Our team therefore took on the mission to disseminate scientific results concerning the benefits of phytochemical molecules found in foods. With the availability of this new information, we hope to encourage people to adopt eating habits that may help them prevent cancer from ever developing.
A Common Sense Message for the Public
- Publication of the best-selling Foods That Fight Cancer (Trécarré) which uses non-technical language to explain the major principles of cancer prevention and describes concrete means of putting cancer prevention into practice on a daily basis through diet. Printing rights for the book have been acquired by 22 countries. This was followed by the publication of Cooking with Foods That Fight Cancer (Trécarré) in which other principles of cancer prevention are presented.
- Publication of a weekly feature article in the Journal de Montréal in which various aspects of cancer prevention through diet are dealt with and current issues related to cancer and diet are explored.
- Creation of a website where the latest information on healthy eating habits and recommendations on cancer prevention through diet are readily available.
- Interactive public conferences and workshops that feature the latest discoveries, healthy recipes and samplings of fruits and vegetables.