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Section of Nutrition and Metabolism

The goal of the Section of Nutrition and Metabolism (NME) is to provide robust scientific evidence on the role of nutrition, obesity, and metabolic dysfunction in cancer development that can translate to both clinical and population-level interventions and to public health policy. NME aims to go beyond what may be considered the traditional domains of nutrition in cancer research and fully exploit methodological advances in molecular profiling techniques to implement an integrated, multidisciplinary programme of research. Given the potential for advances in molecular profiling to help overcome methodological challenges in nutrition research and unlock the underlying biological pathways, emphasis is placed on conducting molecular epidemiological research that integrates –omics data, including metabolomics, hormone measurements, the microbiome, and genomics, within population-based cohorts and intervention studies.

The Section is led by Dr Marc Gunter () and is composed of three groups: the Biomarkers Group (BMA), led by Dr Augustin Scalbert (); the Nutritional Epidemiology Group (NEP), led by Dr Marc Gunter; and the Nutritional Methodology and Biostatistics Group (NMB), led by Dr Pietro Ferrari ().

The overall strategic vision of NME is centred on three major research themes: (i) understanding the role of obesity and metabolic dysfunction in cancer development; (ii) identifying biomarkers of diet and nutrition and their application within studies of cancer etiology; (iii) investigating multimorbidity and biological pathways common to cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Within these themes, the Section focuses on a core set of cancer sites, primarily cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer, thyroid cancer, and endometrial cancer. The choice of these cancer sites is intentional, and NME places particular emphasis on cancer types that have clear links to nutrition and metabolic abnormalities and for which much remains to be discovered about their etiology. Moreover, the cancer sites of focus are those with high or rapidly rising incidence for which preventive strategies may be most effective to reduce the future burden. In addition to working within established cohorts, such as the European Prospective Investigation into Nutrition and Cancer (EPIC), the Section also devotes considerable resources to the development of studies in low- and middle-income countries such as South Africa, Morocco, and countries in Latin America where, because of the epidemiological transition, cancer types linked to diet and lifestyle are increasing in incidence.

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