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Beneficial and Adverse Effects of Natural Chemicals on Human Health and Food Safety

Helferich, William (Bill)
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign
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1. Determine the mechanisms by which dietary bioactive compounds protect against human diseases. 2. Elucidate mechanisms of action of dietary toxicants and develop biomarkers for human risk assessment and disease prevention. 3. Discover and characterize novel bioactive dietary compounds that have beneficial or adverse effects on human health. 4. Increase beneficial or decrease adverse effects of bioactive constituents and microbes in food.
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Non-Technical Summary:
Women are consuming dietary botanical estrogens as a natural and 'perceived' safe alternative to hormone replacement therapy. Interference with successful anti-hormone breast cancer therapies is a critical issue since estrogen-like dietary compounds can negate the effectiveness of these therapies. Metastasis to other sites is the main cause of mortality in breast cancer patients. Therefore, the safety of botanical estrogenic dietary supplements on breast cancer metastasis presents a critical research need. We will evaluate the effect of dietary botanical estrogens on breast cancer growth and progression using preclinical animal models. Evaluation of metastasis will involve the injection of human breast cancer cells into the tail vein and following tumor occurrence in lung, kidney, liver, and bone. In most studies we will use engineered cells that express 'fire-fly' luciferase and emit light in the presence of luciferin. The metastasis of these engineered breast cancer cells can be followed by bioluminescent imaging. Results from these studies will provide valuable information to health professionals so that appropriated recommendations can be made to women with or at high risk of breast cancer.

Our research approach is to continue to work with dietary phytoestrogens with an emphasis on tumor growth, progression and metastasis. Most of the focus will be on botanical estrogens (including genistein and equol). We will also evaluate other botanicals being consumed by women such as those contained in estrogenic herbal mixtures. We will utilize a combination of chemical methods to characterize the dietary phytoestrogen-containing products and then evaluate the biological relevance using a combination of cell and whole animal tumor growth studies.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Natural Toxins
Viruses and Prions
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants
Sanitation and Quality Standards