UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Cancer Prevention

Withaferin ABOCP research in the prevention of women's cancer focuses on two areas: (1) the development of a multidisciplinary clinic for the treatment and study of women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer; and (2) the study of natural and synthetic compounds for chemoprevention.

Selected Publications

  • Treatment with withaferin A (WA), an Ayurvedic medicine constituent, prevented mammary carcinogenesis in MMTV-ErbB2 mice and was associated with suppressed glycolysis in mammary cancer cells (Hahm et al., JNCI. 105(15):1111-22, 2013). Using experimental models of breast cancer (transformed MCF10A cells and breast cancer cell lines), several novel functions of WA were discovered, including covalent binding at cysteine-303 in β-tubulin resulting in a G2/M blockade (Antony et al., J Biol Chem. 289(3):1852-65, 2014) and suppression of vimentin to block epithelial to mesenchymal transition (Lee et al., Mol Carcinogenesis. Nov 2013).
  • Benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC), a constituent of edible cruciferous vegetables, inhibits epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in breast cancer xenografts via downregulation of FOXQ1 (Sehrawat et al., Carcinogenesis. 34(4):864-73, 2013). BITC was also found to specifically target tumor initiating cells (Kim et al., Cancer Prev Res. 6(8):782-90, 2013).
  • Increasing awareness of the hereditary component of breast and ovarian cancer has driven interest in creating clinics for the patient population at high risk for these cancers. The goals of the Magee-Womens Hospital High Risk Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program (HRBOCP) are to evaluate women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer and to organize their clinical care in a multidisciplinary setting staffed by experts in the field; to provide updates on new data regarding screening recommendations, prevention options, and risk factors pertinent to an individual's cancer risk; to provide ongoing support to patients and to coordinate family communication when appropriate; and to facilitate enrollment in appropriate research studies and registries. (Engel et al., Fam Cancer. 11(3):419-27, 2012).


Costantino, Joseph, DrPH
McAuliffe, Priscilla, MD, PhD
Jankowitz, Rachel, MD
Singh, Shivendra, PhD
Pharmacology & Chemical Biology