Cancer cells

Despite great efforts in improving medical treatments, cancer is still a leading cause of death worldwide and there is strong evidence many cases can be prevented by establishing healthy eating habits early in life or adopting better practices later. HNRCA researchers focus on colorectal, liver and lung cancer – all on the rise in the U.S. and each associated with obesity, diabetes and the excessive intake of refined carbohydrates. The focus of our scientists range from studying protective effects of whole foods rich in phytochemicals to the role that anti-inflammatory bacterium plays in cancer prevention. They also examine how other factors, such as genetics, alcohol consumption and smoking, interact with nutrition to determine cancer risk.

Key research objectives

  • Investigate mechanistically the anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effect of phytochemical-rich whole food approaches, and purified phytochemicals as well as their derivatives, in preventing inflammation-promoted (e.g., induced by a high-sugar diet, diabetes, and aging) cancer development.
  • Define the cellular pathways by which obesity, obesigenic diets, and the intake of the 1-carbon nutrients modulate the risk of developing cancers of the colorectum and other common cancers in both animal models and human samples, and exploit these mechanistic insights in order to devise targeted means of mitigating cancer risk.
  • Examine how modifications in the microbiome alter biochemical and molecular processes that lead to colorectal cancer, and explore how intentional manipulations of the microbiome, or its products, can be exploited for cancer prevention.


Xueyan Fu, PhD
Joel B. Mason, MD
Xiang-Dong Wang, MD, PhD
Dayong Wu, MD, PhD