Tobacco and Environmental Carcinogenesis Program

Program Leaders: Robert Schnoll, PhD and Trevor Penning, PhD

The Tobacco and Environmental Carcinogenesis (TEC) Program brings together researchers who conduct transdisciplinary studies that address cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality related to tobacco dependence and exposure to environmental carcinogens. The Program includes the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (which has research themes in mechanisms of carcinogenesis and gene-environment interactions that determine cancer risk), the Superfund Research Program (focused on asbestos exposure and mesothelioma in our catchment area), the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Nicotine Addiction (which has research themes in nicotine addiction and smoking cessation), and the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (which focuses on understanding tobacco-related messaging in order to inform the regulation of tobacco products).

The scientific goals of the TEC Program, which have been devised to integrate these research themes, are as follows:

  • To elucidate the pathways underlying exposure risk (e.g., risk factors for tobacco dependence; environmental exposures and risk for mesothelioma and melanoma)
  • To identify the mechanisms linking exposure to disease (e.g., steps in multi-stage carcinogenesis)
  • To evaluate methods for exposure and risk reduction (e.g., tobacco cessation treatments; asbestos remediation; UV light protection)
  • To test methods of risk communication (e.g., tobacco marketing, regulatory science)

Recent seminal contributions include validating the first genetically-informed biomarker for personalized smoking cessation treatment and identifying novel mechanisms by which multi-organ carcinogens (e.g., polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) in tobacco smoke and the environment are metabolically activated. Current research priorities include:

  • Evaluating health environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing
  • Expanding tobacco regulatory science research
  • Identifying methods for asbestos remediation
  • Strengthening collaboration with the melanoma program to study UV-light exposure

Overall, the TEC Program is dedicated to understanding the etiology and developing methods to prevent tobacco and environmental-related cancers at the population, community, and individual level.

Tobacco and Environmental Carcinogenesis Program Membership