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American Association for Cancer Research's Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, Nov. 12-15, 2006

American Association for Cancer Research's Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research

The American Association for Cancer Research's Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting was held Nov. 12 to 15 in Boston and drew more than 900 attendees from 35 countries.

"We had everything from cutting-edge molecular technology to huge global issues to infections, including 400 submitted abstracts of primary data -- really exciting new work that ranged from molecular genetics to a presentation by Sir Richard Peto, who discussed the global impact of smoking and smoking cessation," said conference chair Scott M. Lippman, M.D., of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

In a keynote presentation, Judah Folkman discussed angiogenesis and cancer prevention therapy, including Avastin (bevacizumab). It is the "most exciting drug that's been approved for colon and lung cancer," Lippman said. Folkman has "a real passion for cancer prevention and the very early, seminal, observations he made in the 1970s seem to be holding true," he said.

Other work focused on drug development. Attendees heard about novel research strategies involving the interface between premalignancy and malignancy at a molecular level that could lead to the development of targeted drugs for prevention and therapy, Lippman noted. The world's experts led discussions on preventive strategies including vaccines for human papillomavirus.

Research presented by Alan Kristal, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, indicated that being overweight, not just morbidly obese, plays an unexpected role in prostate cancer. In a study of 2,000 prostate cancer cases, obesity was associated with an 80 percent increase in risk of high-grade prostate cancer and a 20 percent decrease in the risk for low-grade disease. Another set of studies from Harvard researchers found a 120 percent increase in the risk of dying in overweight and obese men with prostate cancer compared to normal-weight men, Kristal said.

In Kristal's own work, a 750-case, population-based study based on SEER data showed the relative risk of prostate cancer-specific mortality was 2.5 in overweight and obese men, even when the data were adjusted for stage, grade, PSA levels and treatment.

The proportion of U.S. men older than 50 years with a body mass index of 30 or higher rose from 23 percent in 1983 to over 40 percent in 2003. Of the 29,500 prostate cancer deaths in 2003, about 7,400 deaths (25.9 percent) may be due to increases in obesity.

"That is an amazing finding. Prostate cancer mortality peaked in 1991 in the U.S. and has declined by 32 percent since then for reasons we don't understand," Kristal said. "If not for obesity, that decrease would be 49 percent. Some big thing is affecting prostate cancer and death and it's being masked by obesity," he said.

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