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Massey researcher part of global scientific task force that found linkages between mixtures of commonly encountered chemicals and the development of cancer

New research has found that combinations of chemicals encountered every day in our food, air and water can lead to the development of cancer.

A global scientific task force involving VCU Massey Cancer Center researcher Masoud Manjili, Ph.D., found that combinations of chemicals encountered every day in our air, food and water can lead to the development of cancer. Assembled by an NGO called “Getting to Know Cancer,” the task force consisted of 174 total scientists from prominent institutions in 28 countries who collaborated to tackle longstanding concerns over the linkages between mixtures of commonly encountered chemicals and the development of cancer. From the thousands of chemicals to which the population is now routinely exposed, the scientists selected 85 prototypic chemicals that were not considered to be carcinogenic to humans and reviewed their effects against a long list of mechanisms that are important for cancer development. Working in teams that focused on various hallmarks of cancer, the group found that 50 of those chemicals support key cancer-related mechanisms at environmentally-relevant levels of exposure. This finding, published in a special issue of Carcinogenesis, supports the idea that very low levels of chemicals may be capable of acting in concert with one another to cause cancer, even though low-level exposures to these chemicals individually might not be carcinogenic.

Masoud Manjili, Ph.D.

Manjili, who is a member of the Cancer Cell Signaling research program at VCU Massey Cancer Center and associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the VCU School of Medicine, serves on the “Getting To Know Cancer” advisory board and is a member of the organization’s Halifax Project task force. He participated in conceiving the study and writing the research manuscript, particularly in relation to tumor-promoting inflammation and immune evasion. “This is a game-changing project proposing that cumulative effects of individual non-carcinogenic chemicals could produce carcinogenic synergies,” he said. “This new understanding of carcinogenesis could lead to restructuring the World Health Organization International Programme on Chemical Safety.”

This project represents the first time that this large-scale problem has ever been considered by interdisciplinary teams that could fully interpret the full spectrum of cancer biology and incorporate what is now known about low-dose chemical effects. In light of this evidence, the task force is calling for an increased emphasis and support for research on low-dose exposures to mixtures of chemicals that are unavoidable in the environment.

Current estimates suggest that as many as one in five cancers may be due to chemical exposures in the environment that are not related to personal lifestyle choices, so the effects of exposures to mixtures of commonly encountered chemicals needs to be better understood in order to reduce the incidence of cancer.   

The full manuscript of this study is available here.

Written by: Jenny Owen

Posted on: June 23, 2015

Category: Research