The O'Neill Laboratory

Our Lab focuses on three main aspects of cancer research:

1. Prevention through education. Our laboratory focuses on the benefits that can be obtained through a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. We are investigating the many different plant chemicals that are involved in reducing cancer risk. It is a well-established fact that many cancers can be prevented by proper attention to diet. We are investigating phytochemicals at the molecular level to establish the mechanisms of protection. Current studies involve gene expression by certain phytochemicals, the effect of certain phytochemicals on DNA repair and immune function enhancement. We promote education by publishing our research findings in scientific journals, giving presentations at conferences and authoring chapters in scientific books.

2. Enhancing the body’s own defense systems, particularly the immune system and DNA repair mechanisms. The body has natural defenses against cancer. We study the immune system and help with the development of possible vaccines that could be used against certain forms of cancer. We are currently studying the interface between the immune system and the cancer cell, focusing on tumor associated macrophages and their role in the cancer process. We have developed new methods to study angiogenesis and metastasis. Currently we are investigating the immune response to tumor cell microenvironment and see the effect on macrophages when placed in different tumor microenvironments. We have also developed the DNA repair assays that allow the measurement of certain cells repair capacity which aid in studies of apoptosis and DNA repair.

3. Early detection of disease. Cancer is generally easier to treat, and a better outcome is assured, if the tumor growth is found early in its development. If it is discovered before metastatic spread, then generally a more favorable outcome is achieved. We have discovered a tumor marker found in serum that will aid in diagnosis, prognosis and tumor management. This maker accurately reflects tumor presence, and tumor stage. Several other laboratories working in this field have confirmed this research. We have developed and accurate test method for this marker, BYU has patented the discovery and it has been licensed to a biotech company for commercial development.