Cancer, Food, and Health

The Foods for Health Institute and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center have partnered to explore the relationship between diet and cancer. This partnership brings together breakthrough research from the Foods for Health Institute on the selective enrichment of bifidobacteria in the intestinal microbiota in infants via human milk, and from the Comprehensive Cancer Center on understanding the successes and failures of cancer therapy due to the balance of immune/inflammation.

Understanding Microbiota

Diet acts on health through two discrete mechanisms: directly by the provision of nutrients, and indirectly through the selective stimulation of growth and metabolism in your intestinal microbiota. Research on this microbiota pathway is only now possible due to recent advances in scientific understanding of the intestine as an ecosystem and enabling tools of microbial genome sequencing and metabolomics. The first studies that have emerged in this new field both at UC Davis and around the world demonstrate that this ‘second’ pathway of diet is critical to the balance of immunity and inflammation and hormonal regulation throughout life and especially during aging and stress and the diseases associated with them, notably cancer.

Program Objectives

UC Davis has assembled a multi-disciplinary, cross-campus program to address the opportunity to redesign diets specifically to act upon the microbiota and its metabolites in order to lower the risk of cancer development, inhibit cancer development and metastasis, and to enhance the efficacy and safety of therapeutic interventions. The FFHI/UCDCCC collaborations is actively building collaborative, scientific teams to seek extramural funding for this exciting area and beyond to include dysbiosis, oncogenesis and obesity research.

FFHI/UCDCCC collaboration includes the West Coast Metabolomics Center, where its establishment of high throughput metabolomics enable simultaneous measurement of diet, host and microbiota metabolism. One translational objective of this program is to undertake clinical trials and develop dietary strategies that are net anti-inflammatory both by direct microbial metabolite production and by its beneficial modulation of ingested compounds such as carcinogens and plant secondary metabolites.