A high incidence of bladder cancer has ravaged areas that are prone to high Arsenic exposure.  RFG 1 is studying the carcinogenic (cancer-causing) properties of arsenic and its effect on urothelial cells (cells that make up the tissue that lines the urinary system).

  • Previous studies showed that the body converts the inhaled Arsenic into Monomethylarsounous acid (MMA III).  For the purpose of these experiments, the Chemical Synthetic Core of SWEHSC synthesized MMA III.
  • The urothelial cells were exposed to steady levels of MMA III.  These exposed cells were examined after a certain amount of time and were found to have developed carcinogenic properties (loss of anchorage dependence and malignancy).
  • These same cancerous cells were also noted to have a decreased amount of DBC1 (“deleted in bladder cancer” gene), which is a biomarker (biological indicator) of the disease.
  • Exposure to MMA III also changed the epigenetic landscape of individuals.  Epigenetics examines gene expression or simply, how the information provided by genes is used by the cell.  These “epigenetic signatures” could be used later on to assess a person’s susceptibility to getting cancer via arsenic exposure.

Key Research Highlights

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in rock. Mines usually dump rock and excess dirt in a huge pile and keep the valuable product (gold, silver, copper) to sell.  The mound of crushed rock and dirt that accumulates is known as mine tailings.  These mine tailings contain very high amounts of Arsenic and are usually picked up by the wind and breathed in by anyone within a reasonable distance of the mine.  This is when health problems such as cancer occur.  In order to examine the mechanisms by which these problems arise, Research Focus Group 1 has undertaken the complicated task of creating a series of research projects that are funded by the National Institute of Health Sciences.