Dr. Roderick H. Dashwood, a recent addition to the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC)’s Institute of Biosciences and Technology (IBT), has already begun to make a substantial impact in the Texas research community. In an earlier BioNews Texas piece on how Dashwood will lead TAMU’s new Field-to-Clinic Initiative and the school’s Newly Formed Center for Epigenetics & Disease Prevention, a new news release from the TAMU Times highlights some of the talented researcher’s recent work, which looks at how the common food choices people consume on a daily basis can directly contribute to fighting a wide range of diseases.
Dr. Dashwood, whose research focus is in dietary cancer prevention and epigenetics, believes that through epigenetics, the most beneficial components of food can be extracted, concentrated, and modified to fight cancer, heart disease, and other ailments in a substantial, effective manner.
Dashwood and his team of researchers chiefly look for compounds such as phytochemicals — which are naturally occurring plant compounds — as the starting-point for drug development, as well as a means of bolstering preventative medicine. Dr. Dashwood explains, “We want to refocus the approach to cancer and other diseases,” adding that, “instead of creating therapeutic medicines to treat a disease once you have it, we want to get to the heart of chemoprevention, using these naturally occurring compounds to reverse, halt or prevent disease expression.”
Dashwood uses the example of broccoli as an example: “If we know that broccoli is a good source of phytonutrients, let’s replicate those phytonutrients in a controlled and concentrated way. Then, instead of eating four cups of broccoli every day, hoping to stave off cancer, you could take a pill that contains the most beneficial and efficacious compounds.”
This grand concept is one of the initiatives that Dashwood is working on in his new role as director of the university’s new Center for Epigenetics & Disease Prevention (CEDP) in Houston, while also continuing to serve in a joint faculty role in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Nutrition and Food Science, as well as an adjunct appointment in the Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dashwood and his team are utilizing this nexus of different research arms between Houston and College Station to expand their efforts on preventing diseases through novel, new biotechnological means.
Thus the decision to use the term “field-to-clinic” as the new moniker for the CEDP.
Cheryl Walker, Ph.D., director of the Texas A&M IBT, indicated that Dr. Dashwood and his team’s research focus is precisely what Texas A&M has in mind when creating the new Center: “Through its partnerships across the A&M System, the new ‘field-to-clinic’ initiative transforms health care by integrating nutrition, chemistry and medicine to radically change the approach to preventing cancer, metabolic disorders like diabetes and chronic conditions like heart disease. Beyond patient care, this research aims to reduce health care costs and improve quality of life.”