The Center for Environment, PFAS, and Cancer Toxicology (CEPaCT) held a meeting on April 25 at the Beckman Institute to discuss recent project and administrative updates. CEPaCT was founded by Cancer Center at Illinois (CCIL) member Joseph Irudayaraj and focuses on performing innovative environmental and biomedical cancer research and community outreach upon exposure to a family of contaminants known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS are synthetic chemicals found in clothing, adhesives, food packaging, non-stick cookware, fire suppression activities, and many other products. They are often called forever chemicals because the chain-like PFAS molecules are highly stable, persistent, and break down slowly. This can lead to long-term environmental impacts such as soil and drinking water contamination and the build-up of PFAS over time in fish, animals, and agricultural products. Human exposure to PFAS also has important implications for human health, with possible links to increased cancer risk.

The CEPaCT team examine the relationships of PFAS on prostate and testicular cancer, as well as study the regulation and remediation of PFAS in the environment. Other cancers of interest to this group are kidney, liver, and breast cancer. The recent meeting featured a presentation by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IL EPA) Office of Toxicity Assessment and updates from CEPaCT project leaders, including CCIL members Jodi Flaws, Zeynep Madak Erdogen, and Michael Spinella.

“There is a lot unknown about the effects of PFAS on the environment and human health. In the past four years alone, more than 90 PFAS-related research publications have come out of the CEPaCT,” said Irudayaraj, current director.

CCIL Member and CEPaCT Director Joseph Irudayaraj presenting.

But the CEPaCT does not want to stop at publications and have developed partnerships with entities such as the IL EPA and Prairie Research Institute in order to translate their research findings. Irudayaraj said, “We are committed to taking an interdisciplinary, collaborative, and hypothesis driven approach to advance discoveries that can inform and guide the improvement of community health.”

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This story was written by Katie Brady, CCIL Communications