Varun Chandrashekaran, Postdoctoral Associate in Pharmacology, Weill Cornell Medical College, has been awarded a 2-year fellowship from the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Dr. Chandrashekaran works in the laboratory of Dr. Lorraine Gudas.
Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC) is the seventh most common cancer worldwide. Surgery is the preferred treatment for early stage HNSCC. However, aggressive local invasion and metastasis lead to a high recurrence rate, which makes HNSCC a challenging disease to treat. To this end, prevention of HNSCC is an important goal.
The project builds on existing research that has shown that one type of retinoid (vitamin A derivative) drug can prevent tumor formation in a mouse model of this cancer. Dr. Chandrashekaran proposes that a combination of retinoids will have greater cancer preventive effect. Retinoids include vitamin A and related molecules. 13-Cis-RA, a retinoid, can reverse premalignant lesions and prevent the development of second primary tumors in head and neck cancers because of its ability to restore normal cell growth and differentiation. The lab uses a carcinogen to induce HNSCC tumors in mice, and has shown that the synthetic retinoid CD1530 effectively prevents the development of oral tumors in the mice. AC261066 is another synthetic retinoid drug that has been identified in the laboratory. AC261066 may also have cancer preventive effects in HNSCC because its target protein is a purported tumor suppressor. Dr. Chandrashekaran’s hypothesis is that AC261066, in combination with CD1530, will prevent the induced HNSCC tumor formation with greater efficacy than either drug alone. Collectively, this research has the potential to identify new strategies for more effective retinoid-based cancer prevention in HNSCC. These findings should save lives by preventing cancer in high-risk individuals.