Archive for 2004

Benchmarks articles from the selected year appear below. To view articles from previous years, use the links to the left, and select the year you wish to see.

A Natural Evolution: Advances and Trends in Natural Products Research

Underwater photo of a coral reef

The lush tropical rainforests and colorful coral reefs of our planet have long been a source of promise in the fight against cancer and other diseases. Even today, these regions, though shrinking rapidly, remain a mystery. They house an amazing biodiversity of microbial, plant and animal life which produces a dizzying array of protective chemicals, such as the toxins secreted by tree frogs, cone snails, and the plant Ricinus communis, source of the deadly ricin. And somewhere under that forest canopy or coral bed, one or more species in that mass may produce the next great cancer drug. But what is the best way to find it?

Natural Products for Cancer Treatment

Underwater photo of a coral reef

Lined up in a glass cabinet in one of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) drug discovery labs is what looks like a miniature tea brewing factory. Pieces of roughly ground plants in deep yellows, greens, and reddish browns soak in glass containers about the size of two-liter bottles. Like many teas, these plants hail from exotic locales–Madagascar, South East Asia, South America. But some soak in organic solvents about as drinkable as gasoline.

The Majority of Cancers Are Linked to the Environment

Go to Animation - Still image from BenchMarks Animation - Jet Stream Dispersing I-131 across the U.S.

One of the hopeful messages from cancer research is that most of the cases of cancer are linked to environmental causes and, in principle, can be prevented. Together, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have recently published a new booklet titled “Cancer and the Environment,” which focuses on the agents in the environment that cause cancer and what we can do to lower our cancer risk. Environmental causes include both lifestyle factors such as smoking and diet, as well as exposure to agents in the air and water. The following interview with Aaron Blair, Ph.D., the chief of the Occupational Epidemiology Branch in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, will address the contribution of various agents to our overall cancer burden.