The goal of the Nutrition and Metabolism Branch (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 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 delineate the underlying biological pathways, emphasis is placed on conducting molecular epidemiological research that integrates metabolomics, hormone measurements, the microbiome, and genomics, within population-based cohorts and intervention studies.
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 applying them within studies of cancer etiology; and (iii) investigating multimorbidity and biological pathways common to cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Within these themes, NME focuses on a core set of cancer sites, primarily colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and liver cancer, as well as hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer, thyroid cancer, and endometrial cancer. Particular emphasis is placed 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 coordination of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort, NME also devotes 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. NME also leads research in cohort consortia such as the NCI Cohort Consortium, the International 100K+ Cohorts Consortium, and the Genetics and Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer Consortium (GECCO), and conducts research within resources such as the UK Biobank and SIDIAP.