Of the many factors that contribute to the formation and growth of tumors, diet is one that is often casually mentioned but has not yet been subjected to rigorous scientific investigation. For Semir Beyaz, the newest CSHL Fellow, what we eat is an important part of understanding environmental risk factors that affect the incidence of cancers.
Beyaz studied at the Izmir Institute of Technology in his native Turkey before joining the Immunology Ph.D. program at Harvard. While there, he also spent time working at the Boston Children’s Hospital, an experience which he says, “motivates me, as a scientist who is working on immunology, to see unmet medical needs in diseases that are associated with immune dysfunction.” It’s his hope that “one day our work can hopefully impact the lives of the people who are suffering from these diseases.”
His research at Harvard concerned the relationship between high-fat diets and the production of stem cells in the intestine. Beyaz found that overproduction of stem cells resulted in a higher rate of tumor incidence in mouse models of colorectal cancer. He now looks to study how dietary choices impact the body’s natural immunity against cancer, specifically in the immune recognition and response pathways.