Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Life Sciences

Major Professor

Hwa-Chain Robert Wang

Committee Members

Albrect von Arnim, Karla J. Matteson, Arnold M. Saxton


Sporadic breast cancers are mainly attributable to long-term exposure to environmental factors, via a multi-year, multi-step, and multi-path process of tumorigenesis involving cumulative genetic and epigenetic alterations in the chronic carcinogenesis of breast cells from a non-cancerous stage to precancerous and cancerous stages. Epidemiologic and experimental studies have suggested that various dietary compounds like green tea and grape seed may be used as preventive agents for breast cancer control. In this research, I have developed a cellular model that mimics breast cell carcinogenesis chronically induced by cumulative exposures to low doses of environmental carcinogens. I used the chronic carcinogenesis model as a target system to investigate the activity of dietary compounds at non-cytotoxic levels in intervention of cellular carcinogenesis induced by cumulative exposures to pico-molar 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) and benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P). I used various cancer-associated properties like, reduced dependence on growth factors, anchorage-independent growth, increased cell mobility, and acinar-conformational disruption as measurable endpoints of carcinogenesis.

The first part (Part-I) of this dissertation focuses on the understanding the breast cancer progression, importance of environmental carcinogens, role of diet in cancer prevention and importance of epithelial to mesenchymal transition and stem-like cells in chronic carcinogenesis. The next three parts (Part II-IV) focus on understanding the role and mechanisms of dietary compounds in prevention of carcinogenesis and stem-like cell properties. Results in part II revealed the green tea extract at bio-achievable concentration can suppress carcinogen-induced cancerous properties. In Part-III, I compared the four major catechins in green tea extract in suppressing chronic carcinogenesis and the results revealed that epicatechin gallate to be most effective. I also identified that short-term exposure to NNK and B[a]P resulted in elevation of reactive oxygen species, ERK pathway activation and induction of cell proliferation and DNA damage, which can be blocked by green tea catechins. Results in Part-IV describe the roles of properties and markers associated with stem-like cells and the epithelial to mesenchymal transition induced by chronic carcinogenesis and their suppression by green tea catechins and grape seed proanthocyanidin extract. The last section (Part-V) summarizes the findings with their importance and discusses future directions.

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