February 11, 2015, New York, NY and Los Angeles, Calif.—Ludwig Cancer Research and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced today the launch of a $10 million research program to advance dietary interventions and technologies for the prevention of colon cancer. The new program, to which each organization will contribute $5 million over five years, expands an existing partnership between the two organizations to develop DNA tests to detect the recurrence of colon cancer in patients.
The program has three overarching goals. One is to investigate and experimentally validate nutritional interventions for the prevention of colon cancers, and to ready them for clinical evaluation. Another is to develop reliable, noninvasive DNA tests for the routine detection of precancerous growths and incipient cancers of the colon. The third longer-term objective is to engage public health experts, epidemiologists, educators, patients and opinion leaders to introduce new cancer prevention strategies to the general public and policymakers.
“Cancer is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, so we believe this partnership could, in the long run, make significant contributions to the improvement of global health,” said Steven M. Hilton, chairman, president and CEO of the Hilton Foundation. “As lifestyles and eating habits change in developing countries, we can expect colon cancer rates to climb. This research will provide new information about dietary interventions and early screening to help people both in the United States and throughout the world.”
Research suggests more than half of all colon cancers can be prevented through dietary and behavioral interventions. Further, though deadly when advanced, colon cancers can often be cured if they are caught early. There is, however, a significant lack of clarity about the kinds of dietary habits likely to protect people from these cancers. And though colonoscopy is the gold standard for detecting both precancerous and cancerous growths in the large intestine, many people shy away from the procedure or—particularly in developing countries—lack access to it. The new program seeks to address both of these barriers to colon cancer prevention.
“There is a real and urgent need to build the evidence base for dietary cancer prevention, which has the potential to contribute meaningfully to curtailing the growth of colon cancer worldwide,” said Robert L. Strausberg, PhD, executive director of Collaborative Sciences at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. “Our team-based approach to the problem will link Ludwig researchers who have considerable expertise in cancer genomics and the development of innovative DNA and protein-based screening technologies with equally accomplished scientists who are probing the interplay between nutrition, symbiotic gut microbes and the immune system. We are very excited about the opportunity this partnership affords us to lay the foundations for practical interventions that will be of benefit to all people.”
Ludwig researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), in New York, will participate in the effort. They bring expertise in a range of disciplines of critical importance to the program. The dietary prevention effort, for instance, will build on basic research in gut immunology conducted at MSK. That research has described how metabolites released by symbiotic microbes in the colon as they digest certain dietary fibers might help to regulate inflammatory immune responses in the lining of the intestine. This offers a clue to cancer prevention because chronic inflammation is thought to fuel the progression of colon cancers. Similarly, work done on colon cancer screening within the Hilton-Ludwig program is establishing a firm foundation for DNA tests that should enable new approaches to early detection that are specific, sensitive and patient-friendly.
Ludwig Cancer Research and the Hilton Foundation expect that the screening technologies and dietary interventions developed in preclinical studies conducted over the course of this five-year program will be subsequently evaluated in clinical trials, and the program will be conducted with that objective in mind.
About Ludwig Cancer Research
Ludwig Cancer Research is an international collaborative network of acclaimed scientists that has pioneered cancer research and landmark discovery for more than 40 years. Ludwig combines basic science with the ability to translate its discoveries and conduct clinical trials to accelerate the development of new cancer diagnostics and therapies. Since 1971, Ludwig has invested more than $2.5 billion in life-changing science through the not-for-profit Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the six U.S.-based Ludwig Centers.
About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world’s disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance abuse, helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition-age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton’s support for the work of Catholic Sisters. In addition, following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants, distributing $92 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2013. The Foundation’s current assets are approximately $2.5 billion. For more information, please visit www.hiltonfoundation.org.