Disparities at the molecular level
In medicine, as in many aspects of life, one size does not fit all. At UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, researchers are working to understand the biological mechanisms that may be at work in certain cancers that disproportionately affect different populations. They also are hunting for clues as to why certain types of cancer are more aggressive in one group or another, and why some populations respond differently when given the same treatment for the same disease.
Some examples of this work at UC Davis include:
Poorly understood type of liver disease more progressive in Hispanics and Pacific Islanders
Natalie Torok, an associate clinical professor of gastroenterology and hepatology, is a physician-scientist who studies a poorly understood type of liver disease called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is characterized by fat in the liver, inflammation and cirrhosis, and can progress to cancer. The disease can be more progressive in Hispanics and Pacific Islanders for reasons that are still not known. Torok’s work in animal models focuses on understanding the role of an enzyme called NADPH oxidase in liver fibrosis, or scarring, associated with the disease.
Rates of lung cancer increasing in younger women who have never smoked; why certain cancer regimens are effective in one population but not another
David Gandara, associate director of clinical research and director of Thoracic Oncology, is working to understand why rates of lung cancer are increasing among younger women who have never smoked, but are declining among men. He also has done clinical trials demonstrating that certain chemotherapy regimens that proved effective against small-cell lung cancer in Japan produced different results in different populations in the United States. This work suggests inherent genetic differences between the populations.
Recombinant H. pylori possible preventative treatment for tuberculosis
Jay Solnick, professor of medicine and microbiology at the Center for Comparative Medicine, is researching how an organism called H. pylori, which is responsible for most stomach ulcers and some stomach cancer, may be protective against tuberculosis. His work, in collaboration with researchers at Stanford University and the University of Pittsburgh, may eventually lead to a recombinant H. pylori strain that expresses TB antigens for possible immunization against TB.
Over sensitivity to lose-dose radiation
David Rocke, distinguished professor of biostatistics, is involved in research to determine why some people are more sensitive to the effects of low-dose radiation than are others, and experience more serious side effects.