Bernard Awarded R01 Grant to Study How Obesity Impacts the Carcinogenicity of Chemical Exposure

August 6, 2020

IIT-affiliated faculty member, Dr. Jamie Bernard, was recently awarded a R01 grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences for her project, "Mechanistic Role of Obesity in Benzo(a)pyrene-initiated Cancer." Bernard, in collaboration with Dr. Sophia Lunt, MSU, and Dr. Weston Porter, Texas A&M University, will receive $1,537,350 to perform this research over the next four years.

“We currently have an unprecedented obesity epidemic with no signs of reversing course,” explained Bernard on the basis of the project. “While the cancer biology field has a mechanistic understanding of how obesity can make existing cancers more aggressive, we still have a very limited understanding about how obesity increases the risk of developing cancer in the first place.”

Bernard and her team have demonstrated that factors from adipose tissue, specifically those released from belly fat, influence the metabolism of chemicals by providing an environment that favors the bioactivation of carcinogens. They hypothesize that this influences cancer risk in obesity which helps shed light on a major unknown – how does obesity cause cancer? By studying this question, Bernard and her team, hope to be one of the first to show that toxicological risk changes due to obesity. Understanding these mechanisms will provide insights into new targets for cancer prevention and determine how excess adipose tissue may increase one's vulnerability to specific carcinogenic exposures.

Bernard is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at MSU. The Bernard laboratory studies the mechanisms that underlie the onset of carcinogenesis, so they can find new targets for prevention.