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October 19, 2010

John Groopman Recognized for Seminal Cancer Prevention Research

John Groopman, PhD, the Anna M. Baetjer Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is the recipient of the Award for Excellence in Cancer Prevention Research from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the Prevent Cancer Foundation. The AACR-Prevent Cancer Foundation Award for Excellence in Cancer Research recognizes scientists worldwide for seminal contributions to the field of cancer prevention. Groopman will receive the award on November 8 in Philadelphia, Penn., at the Ninth AACR Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.

“John is recognized around the world as a superb scientist. His discovery, validation and application of molecular biomarkers to probe the etiology of liver cancer and his efforts to prevent it in the economically developing world are vital contributions to the prevention of cancer worldwide,” said Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For more than 25 years, Groopman has studied the development and application of molecular biomarkers of exposure, dose, and effect from environmental carcinogens. A major focus of Groopman’s research is the study of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Asia and Africa, where over 600,000 new cases occur each year. Groopman’s initial biomarkers were rapidly translated into a multinational investigation of the etiology of HCC that for the first time characterized the relationship between exposure to the mold-derived food contaminant, aflatoxin, and infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV). His molecular epidemiology investigations of HCC etiology have become among the most detailed sets of data that link environmental exposures to cancer outcome.

Working with Bloomberg School colleague Thomas Kensler and Bill Roebuck of Dartmouth Medical School, Groopman demonstrated that aflatoxin-induced DNA damage could be reduced by phenolic antioxidants and dithiolethiones in the rat liver. Follow-up studies showed that a clinically used dithiolethione, oltipraz, completely protected against aflatoxin-induced HCC in rats. This observation led to the proposition that a chemopreventive agent such as oltipraz could be used in interventions in high-risk human populations. Further studies in China using the agent chlorophyllin found that DNA damage in people could be reduced by 55 percent.

In addition to leading the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Groopman also directs the NIEHS Center in Urban Environmental Health, housed within the Bloomberg School, and is associate director of the Oncology Center of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Before joining Johns Hopkins, Groopman trained in molecular toxicology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and developed the first monoclonal antibodies recognizing chemical DNA damage products at the National Cancer Institute in the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis.

Contact for Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons at 410-955-7619 or tmparson@jhsph.edu.