Dr. Jin-rong Zhou is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Nutrition/ Metabolism Laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA and is a recipient of the Prevent Cancer Foundation research grant. Dr. Zhou is currently researching how a dietary combination of soy and black tea could significantly inhibit the development and progression of prostate cancer in a synergistic manner. Scientific evidence suggests that dietary intake of soy or black tea individually may have a potent anti-prostate cancer effect. The results of this research, along with evidence from previous studies, could lead to further studies of men at high risk for prostate cancer and eventually to a realistic dietary approach to prostate cancer prevention.
The Foundation caught up with Dr. Zhou to get an update on this ground-breaking research. Epidemiological studies suggest that the dietary pattern in the Asian population may play a significant role in the prevention of prostate cancer. On the other hand, the exact active dietary components and dietary patterns that are responsible for the preventive role of the Asian diet remain largely unknown. It is thus imperative to evaluate and identify the active dietary components or patterns, so that the true effective dietary regimens can be applied for prostate cancer prevention. I am committed to devote my professional career to this challenging and exciting research field, hoping that my research can someday make a significant contribution to effective prevention of prostate cancer and other types of cancers.
Q. How important is diet in prevention of prostate cancer, especially in the recent light of controversy surrounding annual screenings?
A. Epidemiological investigations have demonstrated an important role of diet and lifestyle in prostate cancer. Basic research has also suggested the preventive activities of certain dietary components in the development and progression of prostate cancer. These findings provide strong evidence that certain dietary modifications or supplementations may effectively prevent prostate cancer. Considering that some prostate cancers are slow-growing and may not need aggressive treatment, effective dietary regimens may be especially significant in controlling and/ or delaying the development and progression of prostate cancer.
Q. What led you to the field of prostate cancer prevention?
A. Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed invasive cancer among men in the U.S., whereas prostate cancer incidence in Chinese men is much lower.
Q. Can you tell us about your research examining the combination of soy and black tea to prevent prostate cancer.
A. Soy and black tea are two important dietary items that are consumed in the Asian population regularly. Therefore it is possible that soy and black tea may have potent preventive effects. It is also possible they may be even more potent when used in combination. However, these important research questions have not been adequately addressed. Our previous research identified the combination of soy and black tea as having a more potent effect in inhibiting the growth of prostate tumors in animal models. On the other hand, it is unknown if this combination also has potent effects in preventing the development of prostate cancer in humans. We therefore are evaluating the effects of soy and black tea combinations on the prevention of prostate cancer by using a clinically relevant animal model.
Q. What impact could your expected results of the synergistic effect of soy and black tea have on preventing other cancers beyond prostate?
A. If it is verified that the combination of soy and black tea prevent prostate cancer, it will provide supporting evidence and a rationale to conduct research on applying this dietary combination regimen for the prevention of other types of cancer.
Q. How has the Prevent Cancer Foundation grant impacted future research and/or potential innovative approaches to prostate cancer prevention?
A. Our results could lead to further clinical investigations on applying the soy and black tea combination for prostate cancer prevention. Our results may also promote further research on identifying other effective dietary combinations for prostate cancer prevention.