Wong, PakKin

This month the Foundation is proud to highlight the work of Pak Kin Wong, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Arizona. Dr. Wong received a two-year grant from the Foundation in the spring of 2008. His research focused on identifying compounds that could inhibit and prevent cancer tumor formation.

We asked Dr. Wong about his work and the importance of funding cancer prevention and early detection research.

1.  What led you to the field of skin cancer research?

Arizona has among the highest incidence rates of skin cancer in the world, so we are interested in identifying compounds that can suppress sun damage relevant to skin cancer. In general, the ability to rapidly identify agents that prevent the occurrence and reduce the severity of cancer is of great importance in cancer research.

2.  Tell us about your research to identify compounds that can inhibit and prevent cancer tumor formation.

It has been established that ingestion of small quantities of some organic compounds, now commonly referred to as chemopreventive agents or anticarcinogens, can reduce the risk of cancer. The success ofseveral clinical trials in preventing cancer in high-riskpopulations suggests that chemoprevention is a rational andappealing strategy.  Our research is to develop a high-throughput microfluidic biosensing study for large-scale screening of chemopreventive compounds. The identification of novel compounds with strong chemopreventive activity represents a major step, such as developing topical medication and dietary-based cancer chemoprevention, towards the prevention of skin cancer.

3.  What impact could your findings have on preventing other cancers beyond skin cancer? 

Various environmental insults, such as toxicants and carcinogens, translate into chemically-reactive molecules, or reactive oxygen species, in the body. These reactive oxygen species are major contributors in the development of cancer. In dealing with these toxicant- and carcinogen-induced reactive oxygen species, the body has evolved defense mechanisms to protect it from their harmful effects. The identification of chemopreventive compounds that induce natural protective mechanisms will be beneficial for preventing various types of cancer.

4.  How has receiving a Prevent Cancer Foundation grant impacted your research?

The funding has allowed us to develop a microfluidic biosensing system for rapid screening of chemopreventive compounds. The development has led to a research program to identify novel preventive agents for cancer and has facilitated the mechanistic study of the natural antioxidant response and chemopreventive pathways. Currently, we are also developing chemopreventive dietary supplement cocktails (combinations of chemopreventive compounds) for the prevention of cancer.

5. Why is it important to fund research in the field of cancer prevention and early detection.

A large body of evidence suggests that cancer is a preventable disease. There are urgent needs to improve our knowledge in cancer prevention, and to develop novel strategies for reducing the incidence of cancer. Funding to support research in cancer prevention is crucial toward the realization of this goal.