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Cancer Prevention and Control

Center for Cancer Prevention and Drug Development


The best way to fight cancer is to prevent it before it can cause harm to people. The goal of our research is to eliminate benign or recurrent tumors before they can become cancerous and spread throughout a person's body. In order to accomplish this goal, the Center for Cancer Prevention and Drug Development is studying how risk factors increase the development and progression of tumors. The knowledge gained is used to devise and test strategies to prevent cancer in preclinical models. The strategies include drugs that target specific molecules shown to drive cancer development and progression, and also drugs that stimulate the immune system to eliminate tumor cells.

A major consideration is to use drugs that cause no to little toxicity, which important because severe side effects are not acceptable in patients that do not have cancer. When drugs are found to be effective without toxicity in our preclinical models, they then are tested in clinical trials. Primary cancer prevention clinical trials test if the drugs prevent cancer development, especially in individuals at high risk for recurrence of cancer. This center has a unique combination of molecular and cellular biologists, pharmacologists, pathologists, veterinary scientists, immunologists, nutritionists, natural product and medicinal chemists, and clinicians who are well experienced in translational research trials. This multidisciplinary team of experts facilitates the identification of risk factors and drug targets, the development of prevention strategies, and the establishment of successful clinical trials

Research Focus

Environmental Risk Factors and Pre-Cancerous Biology

Research emphasizes cancer risks incited by lifestyle factors and environmental agents such as tobacco smoke. Studies are conducted to gain an integrated understanding of how nutrition, genetics, and environmental carcinogens participate in cancer causation and progression. The entire tumor microenvironment is interrogated to identify risk factors and potential molecular targets as well as to understand how modulation of immune responses may improve the selection of target(s) for high-risk cohorts. The findings from these studies serve as the basis for the development of cancer prevention intervention strategies in preclinical models and then in clinical trials.

In addition to an individual’s inherited genetic risk, factors such as life-style habits (physical activity, smoking, diet), concurrent diseases (obesity, diabetes), and etiological agents (environmental carcinogens and tumor promoters, microbes) may influence cancer risks. Thus, CCPDD research focuses on genetic as well as on environmental risk factors of relevance to Oklahomans in the development of precancerous tumors and their progression to malignant invasive cancers. 

Cancer Preventive Drug Development

This area includes development and testing of drugs, vaccines, and natural products individually and/or in combination for primary and secondary cancer prevention. Drug development is an arduous and multistep process. CCPDD research focuses on developing chemopreventive agents and/or biologics to target the precursor lesions of major epithelial cancers and their progression to metastatic invasive cancers. 

Thus, CCPDD research involves identifying potential drug targets, developing small molecule inhibitors and biologics using high through-put screening assays, establishing the optimal drug doses & preventive efficacy towards major organ site cancers, and assessing their pharmacokinetics (PK), pharmacodynamics (PD), and toxicities in preclinical models before considering them for Phase 0, I, or II clinical trials.

Testing chemopreventive and/or other biologics in pre-clinical studies will determine whether or not the candidate agents are safe and effective enough to be advanced to clinical trials in high-risk individuals. A comprehensive team of expertise and state-of-the-art research facilities exist at the CCPDD and SCC to undertake these cancer drug developmental activities.

Cancer Immunoprevention

The focus of this research is to understand and develop immunopreventive strategies for the prevention of solid tumors; to develop tumor antigen specific vaccines and generate cytotoxic helper T cells specific for tumor antigens for adoptive immunopreventive strategy. 

To identify agents that stimulate the innate immune system to eliminate tumors, and counteract the ability of cancer cells to convert active immune cells into tolerant immune cells.

To develop biologically relevant animal models for solid tumors to assess the immune responses and to evaluate different vaccines and adoptive immunopreventive strategies. Potential vaccines and/or innate immunostimulatory agents are being tested in combination with chemoprevention drugs in preclinical models and clinical phase I and II studies. These optimized strategies will be translatable for the prevention of both primary and secondary cancer in high risk populations.

Early Detection: Diagnosis / Biomarkers

The positive impact of early detection on cancer mortality is one victory in the war on cancer; yet, there is enormous room for improving early detection / diagnosis of pancreatic, lung, and ovarian cancers. 

Those cancers typically are diagnosed in an advanced stage when chances of a cure are remote because there are no effective screening tests.

The focus of our early detection research is to develop improved early detection technologies and diagnostic biomarkers that can detect tumors at early stages. Thus, as an essential part of the CCPDD ongoing strategy, investigators are establishing early detection technologies by applying novel imaging biomarkers, circulating markers of solid tumors such as pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancers. 

Research Training and Opportunities

Various laboratories in the Center offer research experience and training opportunities to postdoctoral and clinical fellows, residents, and students ranging from high school through graduate levels.

Learn more about research and training opportunities >

Resources and Facilities

Learn more about resources and facilities >



Collaborating Centers for NCI Prevention Cancer Drug / Biomarkers Development

Lombardi Cancer Center
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Medical College of Wisconsin
New York University Medical Center
Penn State Cancer Institute
The Ohio State University
The University of Colorado, Denver
University of Utah
University of Washington


Chinthalapally V. Rao, PhD
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Doris Benbrook, PhD
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Contact & Links

Contact Information

Center for Cancer Prevention and Drug Development Clinic
975 NE 10th St., BRC 1203
Oklahoma City, OK 73104
P: (405) 271-3224
F: (405) 271-3225