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Friday, 03 February 2017

Groundbreaking cancer research

Dr Stefan Abel, whose groundbreaking research in the field of chemoprevention has recently earned him a coveted National Research Foundation (NRF) rating Dr Stefan Abel, whose groundbreaking research in the field of chemoprevention has recently earned him a coveted National Research Foundation (NRF) rating

With millions of new cases of cancer reported each year, researchers across the globe are working tirelessly to develop new and smarter ways to fight cancer.

One such is CPUT’s Dr Stefan Abel, whose groundbreaking research in the field of chemoprevention has recently earned him a coveted National Research Foundation (NRF) rating. Abel is the latest researcher at CPUT to be awarded this accolade and joins a growing list of NRF rated researchers at the university.

Based in the Institute of Biomedical and Microbial Biotechnology, Abel currently heads the institute’s Chemoprevention Research Group, which is located at the Tygerberg Hospital. The group’s emphasizes of chemoprevention research focuses on South African herbal teas, such as rooibos, and dietary unsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3, which can influence the physical and biological cellular responses that are significant during carcinogenesis (cancer development).

While cancer remains a daunting public health challenge, Abel says he has never regretted his decision to pursue this area of research.

His springboard into this field was in 1992 when he joined the Medical Research Council and was tasked with investigating the role of fatty acids in cancer development and chemopreventive properties of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).

More than two decades later, Abel has established himself as a leading researcher in his field, having published 34 scientific publications and four book chapters, along with 55 national conference presentations, close to 40 international conference presentations and numerous articles in local and internal magazines and specialized publications.

Abel says his research work is focused on characterizing the pattern of lipid alterations in cancer tissue, which creates an environment for the promotion and survival of cancer cells.

“The research I have conducted has provided further insight into the complex lipid alterations occurring in cancer development, with the aim of defining and optimising specific fatty acids to be used as chemopreventive agents,” he says.

Through dietary manipulation, which is largely based on specific fatty acids, such as omega-3, Abel and his team of researchers hope to stunt the growth of these cells.

“The link between nutrition and chemoprevention is of particular relevance, which is reflected by the inclusion of a nutritional aspect to my research focus, besides chemoprevention which it compliments. Therefore, my research activities have grown to reflect this by incorporating relevant studies with the aim to implement them in a chemoprevention strategy.”

Abel says the core research over the last eight years has remained the same, with the main objective to investigate the role of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in cancer development in humans, utilising animal cancer models and cell culture. Past research involved liver and colon cancer, while future studies will also include prostate cancer.

Written by Candes Keating

Tel: +27 21 959 6311
Email: keatingc@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Engineering and Applied Sciences Faculties; the Bellville and Wellington Campuses, and research and innovation news.