An international collaborative led by Ludwig Cancer Research and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has identified key areas that are central to uncovering the complex relationship between nutrition and cancer. Advancing research on these core areas using a holistic, cross-disciplinary approach including population biobanks could catalyze progress urgently needed to prevent cancer and improve public health globally. Their main observations and conclusions are reported in a Forum article published online in BMC Medicine.
Ludwig Cancer Research is an international collaborative network of acclaimed scientists that has pioneered cancer research and landmark discovery for more than 40 years. Ludwig combines basic science with the ability to translate its discoveries and conduct clinical trials to accelerate the development of new cancer diagnostics and therapies. Since 1971, Ludwig has invested $2.7 billion in life-changing science through the not-for-profit Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the six U.S.-based Ludwig Centers.
Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. The charity has pioneered work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. It receives no funding from the UK government for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on vital donations from the public. Their work delivered progress that has already seen cancer survival in the UK double in the last 40 years. Today 50% of people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. CRUK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 75% of people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Research into all aspects of cancer is supported through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses. Together with its partners and supporters, CRUK’s vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
The forum paper, which built from the inaugural international Cancer Prevention and Nutrition Conference held in London on December 3-4, 2018, highlighted new analytical approaches and global networks that are helping researchers to move from observational associations to causal links. Recent advances in omics technologies, combined with the creation of large research groups and population biobanks, have made high-dimensional molecular datasets from human samples more accessible. These tools are a valuable resource to advance our understanding of the causal underpinnings of cancer.
Traditionally, there have been several methodological challenges with studying the impact of nutrition on cancer risk, development and treatment. Environmental exposures in early life—including diet—can influence cancer risk in the future. However, the impact of these factors has been difficult to track from childhood to adulthood. In addition, our understanding of the fundamental biologic mechanisms behind these long-term effects is limited.
Translating research on nutrition and diet into cancer prevention recommendations and policies that successfully change people’s eating habits is equally important, according to the authors. Working with governments and healthcare professionals to limit the proliferation of unhealthy food options will continue to be critical.
“While data clearly show that obesity is a major risk factor for cancer, we still have a lot to learn about how diet, physical activity and other metabolic factors impact cancer development.” … “In bringing together the most prominent experts in the field across institutions, disciplines and continents, we have worked to identify these research gaps and clarify the role of nutrition in cancer prevention.” – Bob Strausberg, Deputy Scientific Director, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research