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Nutritional Science Research Group

Frontiers in Nutrition and Cancer Prevention: Online Series

Can Nutrition Simultaneously Affect Cancer and Aging?

Photo of a family having a picnic

Wednesday, December 04, 2013
12:00 – 1:30 pm EST


Common Mechanisms of Cancer and Aging 

João Pedro de Magalhães, PhD
João Pedro de Magalhães, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Functional and Comparative Genomics
Institute of Integrative Biology
University of Liverpool, England

João Pedro de Magalhães, PhD leads the Integrative Genomics of Aging Group at the Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, UK.

João Pedro graduated in Microbiology from Escola Superior de Biotecnologia in his hometown of Porto, Portugal, in 1999. His first experience in a research environment was as an intern (1998-1999) in the UnIGENe research group at the Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology in Porto, where he worked on Machado-Joseph disease, a neurological disorder, under the supervision of Jorge Sequeiros.

As a doctoral fellow, he pursued his dream of unravelling the mechanisms of aging by joining the Aging and Stress Group at the University of Namur in Namur, Belgium. With Olivier Toussaint as his advisor, his work from 1999 to 2004 spanned molecular mechanisms of cellular senescence and response to oxidative stress, evolutionary models of aging, and analyses of gene networks.

Fascinated by the genome and by the opportunities its sequencing opened, João Pedro then did a postdoc from 2004 to 2008 with genomics pioneer George Church at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA. He developed high-throughput approaches for studying aging, including computational tools and databases, statistical models of mortality, and comparative genomics methods for investigating the evolution of longevity.

In 2008, he joined the School of Biological Sciences (now called Institute of Integrative Biology) at the University of Liverpool as a Lecturer to develop his own group on genomic approaches to aging.

Role of Telomeres in Health Span and Longevity 

María Blasco, PhD
María Blasco, PhD
Director and Head of the Telomeres and Telomerase Group
Spanish National Cancer Research Centre - CNIO
Madrid, Spain

Maria A. Blasco (Alicante, 1965) obtained her PhD in 1993 for her research at the Centro de Biología Molecular "Severo Ochoa" under the supervision of M. Salas. That same year, Blasco joined the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York (USA) as a Postdoctoral Fellow under the leadership of C. W. Greider. In 1997 she returned to Spain to start her own research Group at the Centro Nacional de Biotecnología in Madrid. She joined the CNIO in 2003 as Director of the Molecular Oncology Programme and Leader of the Telomeres and Telomerase Group and was appointed CNIO Vice Director in 2005.

Her major research achievements include: (1) Isolation of the core components of mouse telomerase and generation of the first knockout mouse for telomerase; (2) Generation of the first mouse with increased telomerase expression in adult tissues; (3) The finding that mammalian telomeres and subtelomeres have epigenetic marks characteristic of constitutive heterochromatin; (4) Discovery of telomeric RNAs, which are potent telomerase-inhibitors whose expression is altered in cancer; (5) Demonstration that telomerase activity and telomere length determine the regenerative capacity of adult stem cells; (6) Identification of the longest telomeres as a universal feature of adult stem cell niches; (7) The finding that telomerase overexpression in the context of cancer resistant-mice improves organismal fitness, produces a systemic delay in ageing and an extension in median life-span; (8) Discovery that telomeres rejuvenate after nuclear reprogramming; (9) Identification of the molecular mechanisms by which short telomeres/DNA damage limit nuclear reprogramming of defective cells; (10) Discovery that telomeric protein TRF1 can act as both a tumour suppressor and as a factor in ageing prevention.

Blasco has received the Josef Steiner Cancer Research, Rey Jaime I, Körber European Science, Alberto Sols and Fundación Lilly Preclinical Research, Awards. She has also been the recipient of the Spanish National "Santiago Ramón y Cajal" Research Award in Biology (2010). Blasco has also been awarded the EMBO Gold Medal and has served on its Council since 2008.

Nutrition at the Intersection of Aging and Cancer 

Stephen D. Hursting, PhD, MPH
Stephen D. Hursting, PhD, MPH
Professor, McKean-Love Endowed Chair of Nutritional
Molecular, and Cellular Sciences
Department of Nutritional Sciences
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX, USA

Dr. Hursting earned a BA in biology from Earlham College and a PhD in nutritional biochemistry and an MPH in nutritional epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also completed postdoctoral training in molecular biology and cancer prevention as a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). From 1995 to 1999, Dr. Hursting was an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Carcinogenesis at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer, where he directed a multidisciplinary research program in nutrition and cancer prevention. He continues his affiliation with his former departments at the MD Anderson Cancer Center as a Professor of Carcinogenesis and Adjunct Associate Professor of Epidemiology. From 1999 to 2005, Dr. Hursting was Deputy Director of the NCI's Office of Preventive Oncology, Division of Cancer Prevention. He was responsible for all aspects of the NCI's Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program. Dr. Hursting was also an Investigator in the NCI's Center for Cancer Research, where he was Chief of the Nutrition and Molecular Carcinogenesis Section of the NCI's Laboratory of Biosystems and Cancer. His research program focuses on the nutritional modulation of the carcinogenesis process, with a particular emphasis on the molecular, cellular and hormonal changes underlying important nutrition and cancer associations, with a focus on energy balance/obesity.


Gabriela Riscuta, MD, CNS
Gabriela Riscuta, MD, CNS
Nutritionist, Nutritional Science Research Group
Division of Cancer Prevention
National Cancer Institute
National Institutes of Health

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