The Nutrition and Cancer Unit (UNAC) is made up of a multidisciplinary group including epidemiologists, statisticians, nutrition specialists, computer scientists, molecular biologists, and geneticists. The Unit’s main focus is the aetiological research of cancer within the framework of the European EPIC study of Diet, Cancer and Health promoted by the European Union and coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC-OMS) and Imperial College (London).
The Unit coordinates the EPIC project in Spain. The scientific strategy of the EPIC study is based firstly on recognising that cancer is a complex process involving multiple environmental and genetic factors. Secondly, the strategy understands that making progress in terms of scientific knowledge of the causal relationship between dietary exposure and other environmental factors and cancer requires an innovative approach that simultaneously includes the combination of traditional epidemiology instruments, with the use of biochemical and biological markers of exposure, as well as genetic susceptibility markers. The study of the interaction of environmental factors with genetic factors is a key part of aetiopathogenesis.
The Unit leads research in gastric cancer and oesophageal adenocarcinoma at EPIC Europe level. The UNAC also works closely with other EPIC research groups studying lung cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer and cervical cancer. Another area to have received a fresh impetus in recent years is research into pancreatic cancer. The UNAC jointly leads an International Pancreatic Cancer Case Control Consortium (PanC4) and is a representative of PanScan, the EPIC Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium.
Another research area within the group is breast cancer survival, which is being researched as part of a new study titled PREDICOP, a random controlled multi-centre trial designed to assess the effect of a lifestyle intervention combining weight control, dieting and physical activity on the risk of relapses in patients with breast cancer.