Chemoprevention is a clinical strategy to block or reverse carcinogenesis before the development of invasive cancer. Studies of chemoprevention in the lungs and upper aerodigestive tract have relied on the field carcinogenesis hypothesis, which predicts that diffuse epithelial injury will result from exposure of that epithelium to carcinogens. This hypothesis is supported by the frequent occurrence of multiple primary tumors within the exposed field. In addition, the understanding of carcinogenesis as a multistep process supports the use of interventions in damaged epithelium before the development of clinically invasive cancer. Current efforts are focused on applying to chemoprevention studies the increasing knowledge of the molecular events in carcinogenesis. In our program, clinical trials in lung and head and neck chemoprevention have focused on individuals with evidence of field carcinogenesis, i.e., a history of previous epithelial cancer or the presence of premalignant lesions. These trials include studies to develop clinically applicable intermediate markers of carcinogenesis and large Phase III trials to evaluate the efficacy of the retinoid isotretinoin in preventing second primary tumors following head and neck or lung cancers.
Presented at the 4th International Conference on Anticarcinogenesis & Radiation Protection, April 18–23, Baltimore, MD. Supported in part by National Cancer Institute Grants CA 46303, CA 48369, P01 CA 52051, and Core Grant CA 16672; American Cancer Society Career Development Awards; and the Charles A. LeMaistre Chair in Thoracic Medical Oncology.