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Gary Asher

Gary Asher

  • M.D., M.P.H.
  • Clinical Research
  • Comprehensive Cancer Support Program

  • Family Medicine
  • UNC-Chapel Hill
  • 966-7269

Area of Interest

Dr. Asher’s research focuses on the cancer chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic potential of curcumin in colorectal cancer.  Curcumin is the presumed bioactive compound from Turmeric (Curcuma longa), and it has been shown to prevent tumor initiation, promotion, and progression in preclinical models of colon cancer.  However, poor oral bioavailablility limit its potential as an agent in humans. 

Currently, Dr. Asher is conducting early phase clinical trials to test the comparative bioavailability and tissue deposition of different formulations of curcumin and to identify biomarkers of effect for curcumin in humans.  The pharmacokinetic study will look at differences in absorption and colorectal tissue concentrations between standard curcumin complex and a newly formulated phosphatidyl-choline curcumin complex.  In a separate clinical trial, he will look at genome-wide changes after curcumin intake, as well as epigenetic changes and alterations in gut microflora.  Curcumin is a known inhibitor of NF-kB, AP-1, and STAT-1, in addition to many other potential biomarkers in-vitro.  Preliminary evidence suggests curcumin also has effects on DNA methylation and acetylation.  Our research strategy is to collect colorectal samples before and after curcumin administration in patients with adenomas to define the regulatory pathways relevant to colon cancer development and progression that may be affected by curcumin.

Awards and Honors

2007 K30 Clinical Research Scholar, University of North Carolina

2010 GI SPORE Developmental Award, University of North Carolina

2010 NIH Loan Repayment Program Award

2010 KL2 Clinical Research Career Development Scholar, University of North Carolina