The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) embraces a mission to understand how the environment influences a wide range of health outcomes, but cancer has been a major focus of the Institute’s work since its early days. Last year, NIEHS published a new iteration of its strategic plan, streamlining its work into three interrelated themes: advancing environmental health sciences; translating those advances from data to knowledge to action; and supporting the training, processes, partnerships, and infrastructure to make the mission possible. “Advancing environmental health sciences” includes studying not just effects of acute exposures, but also of chronic low level exposures to environmental agents that happen over time; discovering the mechanisms that govern susceptibility during different time periods over the lifespan; understanding the effects of exposure to complex real-world mixtures or even of the full exposome; and most recently, learning about how environmental exposures can impact health and cancer outcomes by changing the microbiome in the gut. All these research areas are key components to understanding how factors in the environment can impact carcinogenesis. Additionally, the institute has embraced new advances to study how genetic and epigenetic variability in the host impacts carcinogenesis. For example, use of the Diversity Outcross resource of outbred mice provides an opportunity to overcome the difficulties inherent in using genetically uniform inbred strains of mice to understand genetic susceptibility to environmental carcinogens. Another exciting direction for the Institute is the use of archived tumor tissues from the National Toxicology Program to determine whether there are specific mutagenic signatures associated with different environmental agents. Along these lines, the Institute collaborated with Agilent to develop the first rat exome probe set that is being used to sequence the exons from material derived from FFPE samples. This research was supported by the NIH, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Citation Format: Richard Woychik. Challenges and opportunities in environmental carcinogenesis: The NIEHS perspective [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference on Environmental Carcinogenesis: Potential Pathway to Cancer Prevention; 2019 Jun 22-24; Charlotte, NC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Can Prev Res 2020;13(7 Suppl): Abstract nr IA17.