UAB awarded $1.7 million NIH grant to continue cancer prevention research

A UAB professor continues breast cancer prevention research with additional funding through the National Institutes of Health.

NIH 2A UAB professor continues breast cancer prevention research with additional funding through the National Institutes of Health. Cancer is a major cause of death worldwide, and breast cancer has a mortality rate of about 40,000 women per year in the United States. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Trygve Tollefsbol, Ph.D., D.O., a professor in the College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Biology, has received a National Institutes of Health renewal grant for $1.7 million to study the molecular mechanisms involved in preventing breast cancer from generation to generation.

Similar to the first five-year NIH award Tollefsbol received in 2016, the renewal grant, titled “Combinatorial epigenetic-based prevention of breast cancer,” will continue to investigate the mechanisms by which a combined diet consisting of commonly consumed plant products can decrease the incidence and growth of breast cancer. A unique aspect of this renewal grant is exploration of the transgenerational prevention of estrogen-negative breast cancer, which is a major cause of breast cancer morbidity, especially in African American women. 

The investigation will determine the role of epigenetic chemistry, which involves heritable changes in gene expression not due to changes in DNA sequence, in the prevention of breast cancer from parents to their offspring. This grant is a collaborative effort between Tollefsbol and co-investigators Drs. Douglas Hurst in the UAB Department of Pathology, David Crossman in the Department of Genetics and Nengjun Yi in the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health.

“Epigenetic processes can be an important target for preventing breast cancer, and this renewal grant will strengthen efforts at UAB to extend investigation into the generational impact of this approach,” Tollefsbol said. “If we find that what parents consume in their diets can help prevent breast cancer in their offspring, this would be a major advancement for research into cancer prevention.”

This renewal grant will serve to further strengthen NIH funding efforts in the Department of Biology and continue to bridge collaborative efforts between the College of Arts and Sciences and the UAB Medical Center and School of Public Health. The combination of this five-year grant with the grant funded in 2016 will bring a total of $3.3 million to UAB and will help to strengthen universitywide research efforts into cancer prevention. The NIH renewal funds will also contribute to the development of the many graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who train with Tollefsbol at UAB.       

The grant will support this research for years six through 10 of the 10-year investigation.