Professor, Pharmacology & Chemical Biology
University of Pittsburgh
Breast cancer incidence rates are rising globally and there is an urgent need for affordable, effective approaches towards prevention. Elevated levels of estrogens are an important determinant of breast cancer risk. One way estrogen promotes tumor growth is through production of chemical metabolites called quinones that are known to cause oxidative DNA damage. Elevated levels of these DNA-damage biomarkers are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Dr. Kensler’s earlier work has demonstrated the efficacy of sulforaphane, a phytochemical from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, to alter estrogen metabolism. In his current BCRF project Dr. Kensler and his team are seeking to validate the measurement of estrogen-DNA products excreted in urine as predictive markers of the efficacy of sulforaphane inhibition in experimental models of estrogen-induced breast cancer. They will use broccoli sprout beverages or broccoli-based dietary supplements rich in sulforaphane to see if a simple intervention can reduce the levels of estrogen metabolites and the associated DNA damage and provide an effective and frugal approach for the prevention of breast cancer.
Thomas Kensler is Professor of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology at the University of Pittsburgh. He obtained his doctorate at MIT and trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin and at the National Cancer Institute. After 30 years on the faculty of the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, he moved his primary appointment to the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. He maintains a small research group at Johns Hopkins. The goal of his laboratory is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved in the induction of cancer by chemicals to serve as a basis for the prevention, interruption or reversal of these processes in humans. A major mechanism of protection against environmental carcinogenesis is the induction of enzymes involved in their detoxication and elimination. To translate laboratory findings to humans, his group has conducted a series of "proof-of-principle" randomized clinical trials in populations at high risk for exposures to air- and food-borne toxins and carcinogens with broccoli sprout beverages rich in the phytochemical sulforaphane. They are now developing and validating biomarkers to assess the efficacy of broccoli-based interventions to block the DNA damaging actions of reactive estrogen metabolites in the context of breast cancer prevention
Dr. Kensler’s numerous awards include the AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention, Society of Toxicology Translational Impact Award and the National Friendship Award, Beijing, China’s highest award for foreign civilians. He has published over 350 research articles. He is a former chair of the NIH Chemo-Dietary Study Section and is on the editorial board of several journals.