Arts & Entertainment

By Dr. David Dunaief

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, after skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that, in 2016, there will be almost 190,000 new prostate cancer diagnoses in the United States and just over 26,000 deaths (1). What better time to discuss prostate cancer prevention than in “Movember,” a month dedicated to raising awareness of men’s health issues?

The best way to avoid prostate cancer is through lifestyle modifications, which means garnering knowledge about both detrimental and beneficial approaches. There are a host of things that may increase your risk and others that may decrease your likelihood of prostate cancer. Your genetics or family history do not mean you can’t alter gene expression with the choices you make.

What may increase the risk of prostate cancer? Contributing factors include obesity, animal fat and supplements, such as vitamin E and selenium. Equally as important, factors that may reduce risk include vegetables, especially cruciferous, tomato sauce or cooked tomatoes, soy and even coffee.

Vitamin E and selenium

In the SELECT trial, a randomized clinical trial (RCT), a dose of 400 mg of vitamin E actually increased the risk of prostate cancer by 17 percent (2). Though significant, this is not a tremendous clinical effect. It does show that vitamin E should not be used for prevention of prostate cancer. Interestingly, in this study, selenium may have helped to reduce the mortality risk in the selenium plus vitamin E arm, but selenium trended toward a slight increased risk when taken alone. Therefore, I would not recommend that men take selenium or vitamin E for prevention.


Obesity showed conflicting results, prompting the study authors to analyze the results further. According to a review of the literature, obesity may slightly decrease the risk of nonaggressive prostate cancer, however increase risk of aggressive disease (3). Don’t think this means that obesity has protective effects. It’s quite the contrary. The authors attribute the lower incidence of nonaggressive prostate cancer to the possibility that it is more difficult to detect the disease in obese men, since larger prostates make biopsies less effective. What the results tell us is that those who are obese have a greater risk of dying from prostate cancer when it is diagnosed.

Animal fat, red meat and processed meats

It seems there is a direct effect between the amount of animal fat we consume and incidence of prostate cancer. In the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a large observational study, those who consumed the highest amount of animal fat had a 63 percent increased risk, compared to those who consumed the least. Here is the kicker: It was not just the percent increase that was important, but the fact that it was an increase in advanced or metastatic prostate cancer (4). Also, in this study, red meat had an even greater, approximately 2.5-fold, increased risk of advanced disease. If you are going to eat red meat, I recommend decreased frequency, like lean meat once every two weeks or once a month.

In another large, prospective (forward-looking) observational study, the authors concluded that red and processed meats increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer through heme iron, barbecuing/grilling and nitrate/nitrite content (5).

Omega-3s paradox

When we think of omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil, we think “protective” or “beneficial.” However, these may increase the risk of prostate cancer, according to one epidemiological study (6). This study, called the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, involving a seven-year follow-up period, showed that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a form of omega-3 fatty acid, increased the risk of high-grade disease 2.5-fold. This finding was unexpected.

However, this does not mean that men should cut back on fish consumption; the effects of omega-3s on heart disease prevention are significant, and heart disease is far more prevalent. Also, this is only one study finding. If you choose to eat fish, salmon or sardines in water with no salt are among the best choices.

Lycopene — found in tomato sauce

Tomato sauce has been shown to potentially reduce the risk of prostate cancer. However, uncooked tomatoes have not shown beneficial effects. This may be because, in order to release lycopene, the tomatoes need to be cooked (7). It is believed that lycopene, which is a type of carotenoid found in tomatoes, is central to this benefit.

In a prospective (forward-looking) study involving 47,365 men who were followed for 12 years, the risk of prostate cancer was reduced by 16 percent (8). The primary source of lycopene in this study was tomato sauce. When the authors looked at tomato sauce alone, they saw a reduction in risk of 23 percent when comparing those who consumed at least two servings a week to those who consumed less than one serving a month. The reduction in severe, or metastatic, prostate cancer risk was even greater, at 35 percent. There was a statistically significant reduction in risk with a very modest amount of tomato sauce.

In the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, the results were similar, with a 21 percent reduction in the risk of prostate cancer (9). Again, tomato sauce was the predominant food responsible for this effect. This was another large observational study with 47,894 participants. Although tomato sauce may be beneficial, many brands are loaded with salt. I recommend to patients that they either make their own sauce or purchase a sauce with no salt, such as one made by Eden Organics.

Vegetable effect

Vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, reduce the risk of prostate cancer significantly. In a case-control study (comparing those with and without disease), participants who consumed at least three servings of cruciferous vegetables per week, versus those who consumed less than one per week, saw a 41 percent reduction in prostate cancer risk (10). What’s even more impressive is the effect was twice that of tomato sauce, yet the intake was similarly modest. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, kale and arugula, to name a few.

Where does coffee fit in?

Surprisingly, coffee may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. It was recently shown in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, where there was a dose-response curve. In other words, the more coffee consumed, the lower the risk. Even those who consumed one to three cups a day saw a 30 percent reduction in the risk of lethal prostate cancers, whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaffeinated (11). Coffee contains bioactive compounds, such as phenolic acids, which have antioxidant effects.

There is a caveat. Although, in this study, more was better, that is not always true in many other studies. Therefore, I would not recommend drinking more than three cups per day, because of other potentially detrimental effects. I think it is apt to finish with two thoughts. Aaron Katz, M.D., from Columbia University Medical Center, had it right when he mentioned that lifestyle modification was important. He was talking about those with early-stage prostate cancer. However, the same philosophy can be applied to prevention of prostate cancer. My goal in writing this article was to arm you with the knowledge you need to start protecting yourself or your loved ones today.

References: (1) (2) JAMA. 2011; 306: 1549-1556. (3) Epidemiol Rev. 2007;29:88. (4) J Natl Cancer Inst. 1993;85(19):1571. (5) Am J Epidemiol. 2009;170(9):1165. (6) Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Jun 15;173(12):1429-1439. (7) Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002; 227:914-919. (8) J Natl Cancer Inst. 2002;94(5):391. (9) Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002; 227:852-859; Int. J. Cancer. 2007;121: 1571–1578. (10) J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000;92(1):61. (11) J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011;103:876-884.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For more information, visit or consult your personal physician.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I recently saw an article in Forbes Magazine entitled, “Be Cautious Buying Drugs for Your Pet Online.” While many internet pharmacies are legitimate, there are also many that are not.

Illegal internet pharmacies have become such a problem that there is an annual international operation called Operation Pangea to try to tackle the sale of illegal and illicit medications. Pangea refers to a hypothetical land mass that included all continents before they separated. Operation Pangea includes help from over 100 countries, over 200 agencies, and targeted over 4,000 internet pharmacies worldwide.

dr-kearns-1The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) estimates that a large percentage of internet pharmacies are not in compliance with federal and state laws, or NABP safety and pharmacy practice standards. Some carry outdated, counterfeit, mislabeled or incorrect drug dosages. Others buy in such bulk (in order to offer discounted prices) that they are not able to store medications in appropriate environments. Rather, they are stored in conditions that are too hot, cold or humid. Many illegal online pharmacies can also put us at risk for credit card fraud or identity theft.

So how does one find safe medications for our pets? The FDA has come up with the acronym AWARE to protect us and our pets in the world of online pharmacies.

A — Ask your veterinarian.

W — Watch for red flags such as the medication does not require a veterinarian’s prescription, the pharmacy does not list its physical address, phone number or contact information, the pharmacy is not based in the U.S., the pharmacy is not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy in the state in which it does business, the pharmacy does not protect your personal information, and the pharmacy has medications at significantly lower prices than your veterinarian. These are all red flags that should make one very wary.

A — Always check accreditation. The NABP has created a voluntary accreditation program called Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites, or Vet-VIPPS for short.

R — Report problems and suspicious online pet pharmacies to the FDA.

E — Educate yourself about online pharmacies. The best defense against an illegal pet online pharmacy is education.

I know it sounds self-serving but most veterinary hospitals will make every attempt to match reputable internet pharmacy prices and, in some cases, beat those prices. There are also rebates only available to veterinary practices that we can pass along to you. More importantly, veterinarians can ensure that medications we dispense are inspected and approved by the FDA and packaged and manufactured according to U.S. government regulations. Pharmaceutical manufacturers will only honor products that are prescribed by and purchased from the pet’s veterinarian.

Everyone remembers the saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I think it is a better idea to purchase medications directly from your veterinarian. However, if you do not, be AWARE.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

By Judith Burke-Berhannan

New technology influences everything, including your child’s college application process. Websites, social media and streaming videos may be more common than catalogs as sources of information for the college-bound child, but the fundamentals of applying for college remain the same — along with the anxiety and anticipation. So how do you help your children make the most of their college search and selection process?

Talk to your child about his or her interests, strengths and goals early. During sophomore and junior year, keep college in focus by including him or her in conversations with family, friends and associates about their college experiences and take advantage of college planning and guidance resources available through your high school and library.

Help your child compile a checklist of what he or she wants in a college, so that by senior year, they can explain their reasons for applying. Research options by exploring college websites together. For example, the Stony Brook University website features a virtual tour, blogs from current students and tools to help you plan for college costs and scholarship opportunities.

The summer before senior year is an ideal time to tour college campuses and review essay topics and application deadlines. Encourage your child to complete all college applications before Thanksgiving. Remember that application and scholarship deadlines are non-negotiable.

At the same time, establish an email account for your child’s college correspondence. Colleges will correspond with applicants primarily by email, so make sure your child checks the account regularly and responds quickly throughout the application process. Remind them that all college correspondence is professional and their writing style should be formal to reflect how serious they are about applying. Make sure they use proper grammar and etiquette and don’t use any casual shorthand commonly used in text messages and on social media — in other words, no acronyms, abbreviations or emojis!

But remember, when it’s time to write essays and talk with the people who will provide letters of recommendation, step aside. This is your child’s college experience, not yours. Admissions committees can detect essays written by professionals and parents. Empower your student to take ownership of the process. Finally, take a step back and relax. Be confident that with the proper preparation and a positive outlook, your child will be successful in his or her college search.

Judith Burke-Berhannan is the dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Stony Brook University.

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'Artist Lake' by Joe Rotella

By Rita J. Egan

The days are becoming chillier, but that hasn’t stopped the Port Jefferson Free Library from celebrating the beauty of the great outdoors. The library is currently hosting the exhibit Slices of Nature/Phase 3, featuring the plein air paintings of Mount Sinai resident Joseph Rotella.

Salvatore Filosa, marketing and outreach librarian, said it’s the third time the library has displayed Rotella’s artwork. Filosa said the painter’s past shows have done well, and the exhibit allows visitors to experience the beauty of both plein air painting and Rotella’s artistic interpretation of local landscapes. “I hope that they’ll enjoy the scenes, and since most of the pictures are of Long Island scenes, I hope it will also give them a better appreciation of where they live,” Filosa said.

'Cedar Beach' by Joe Rotella
‘Cedar Beach’ by Joe Rotella

Raised in Brooklyn, Rotella spent 28 years of his career as an art teacher with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). During this time, the artist said he did very little painting of his own and concentrated on teaching. When he retired in 2008, he was finally able to pursue painting steadily and become a professional artist, something he aspired to since a child. “It’s a full-time passion,” he said.

Working with acrylics and sometimes with oil paints, Rotella’s artwork represents his interpretation of Long Island landscapes and seascapes. Since 2010, he has exhibited his work in both New York and South Florida in shows such as the Hampton Bays Outdoor Show and Patchogue Arts Council Summer Member Show.

The artist said he considers himself a Post-Impressionist. “I’m interested in expressing myself more so than the impressionist artists do. I’m trying to capture light in the moment, but I am also trying to give a feeling of emotion in my brushwork and so forth,” he said.

Rotella prefers plein air painting where one paints landscapes outside and interprets what they see physically in front of them as opposed to a scene captured in a photograph. Shortly after he retired, he moved to Mount Sinai and visited Gallery North in Setauket on a day when the Joseph Reboli Wet Paint Festival was taking place. “One day I went to Gallery North, and I saw people working outside, and I said, ‘Wow that’s just what I do, and what I want to do,’” he said.

He spoke to Esther Marie at Gallery North, who said he was more than welcome to participate in the plein air festival in the future, and in 2012, he did just that. Rotella said he also has contributed to art shows at the gallery since then.

'Lenny Bruno Farms' by Joe Rotella
‘Lenny Bruno Farms’ by Joe Rotella

When it comes to summing up his work, the painter said his artist statement on his website relays his mission best. The statement begins with: “In my work I try to capture the atmospheric conditions in terms of light, tone and color. I paint what I see and try not to compromise color. I am concerned with some details but do not obsess over them. I paint the surface tones as I see them trying to be fluid and spontaneous with my brush strokes.”

The artist is pleased to display his paintings at the Port Jefferson Free Library once again. He said a few years ago he attended an art critique there and noticed artwork hanging on the walls of the meeting room. He approached the librarian at the desk and discovered all he had to do was schedule a date in order to exhibit his own paintings.

Rotella said he chose large works of art for this exhibit, with some measuring as much as 30 by 54 inches. While the paintings won’t be available for sale at the library, interested buyers can contact Rotella directly. The painter hopes library patrons come away from the exhibit with a different perspective of nature. “I’ve gotten many comments from people saying that my artwork makes them feel good because of the way I paint the scenes of nature. And that’s one thing, just to get a sense of nature, and how an artist interprets nature and sees nature, so that they can feel good about nature,” Rotella said.

“Maybe begin to look at nature in a different way; begin to start looking at nature and seeing what nature has to offer. Nature is beautiful. That’s what I would like them to get out of it — getting a good feeling from my work and appreciating it and feeling good about what they see.”

The exhibit will be on display in the meeting room of the PJFL, located at 100 Thompson Street, until Nov. 28. For more information on Rotella and his paintings, visit

Artist Doug Reina in his Setauket studio. Photo from Pam Brown

By Kevin Redding

From the Reboli Center for Art and History and The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook to Gallery North in Setauket, the North Shore community has no shortage of options when it comes to appreciating work from local artists.

But for those who trek through art exhibitions seeking a more in-depth glimpse into the artist’s process and how specific paintings and sculptures came to be, there’s an opportunity to see it all up close and personal this weekend.

The Artists

Pam Brown

26 William Penn Drive

Stony Brook

Nancy Bueti-Randall

574 Moriches Road

St. James

Peter Galasso

28 Gaul Road

South Setauket

Flo Kemp

94 Old Field Road


Hugh McElroy

114 Hallett Avenue

Port Jefferson

Jim Molloy

403 Pipe Stave Hollow Road

Miller Place

Doug Reina

290 Main Street


Sungsook Setton

22 Mud Road


Mary Jane van Zeijts

268 Main Street


Fernanda Vargas

11 Robert Townsend Lane


Annemarie Waugh

34 Southgate Road


Christian White

574 Moriches Road

St. James

Saturday, Nov. 12, and Sunday, Nov. 13, from noon to 5 p.m., the North Shore Artist Coalition will present an Artist Open Studio Tour that will provide the public with a free and intimate look at the studios of 12 local artists all within Three Village and its surrounding areas.

Artist Pam Brown in her studio in Stony Brook. Photo from Pam Brown
Artist Pam Brown in her studio in Stony Brook. Photo from Pam Brown

Those on the self-guided tour will have the opportunity to meet and talk with the artists — mostly painters and sculptors — about their work, range of styles and studio practices. Among the core artist group is sculptor Pam Brown, who, along with painters Doug Reina, Jim Molloy, Mary Jane van Zeijts and Nancy Bueti-Randall, decided to organize the event in an effort to promote professional artists who live on the North Shore. Other award-winning artists including Peter Galasso, Flo Kemp, Sungsook Setton, Fernanda Vargas, Christian White, Annemarie Waugh and Hugh McElroy were invited to participate in this weekend tour.

Brown, who once served as gallery director and curator at Dowling College, said the group wants to contribute to an already thriving art community and help identify the area as a cultural hub. Since the event is brand new, the artists are still unsure what kind of audience they should expect. Working in a creative field, Brown said that artists are always trying to build their audience, and so the group hopes to see a lot of people interested in observing their process — including kids.

“I think it’s a great way for them [kids] to see artists making a living,” said Brown. “Everyone on the tour is very social and friendly, and it will definitely be a comfortable ‘meet-and-greet’ situation. You can come by, meet the artists, see their studio practice and get the inside story as to the what, where, why and how of their work. Overall it’s a win-win for the community.”

According to Brown, there will be a wide variety of styles and techniques on display, depending on whose studio you’re in. As a sculptor, for instance, she will be working on a new piece and demonstrating copper fabrications.

Reina, who primarily paints the people and landscapes of Long Island from his studio in Setauket, has two commissions to work on during the tour. He also plans to have samples of his work on display, some of which will be for sale. With a background in teaching, he hopes anybody who might be interested in getting started in painting will come and talk to him about it. For him, having people around while he’s working will be a very welcome change of pace.

“It’s a pretty solitary lifestyle for me,” said Reina. “To get any good work done I have to close the door, put on some good music, and work. But I do like people … you need to have a little bit of a reaction every once in awhile to what you’re doing. It’s no good if it’s just a one-way street. You want people to enjoy [what you’re doing], to see what you’re up to, to comment on it, and to get excited about it.”

Even though purchase of any art piece on sale is encouraged, Brown insists that the main mission of the event is to “create an audience and appreciation” for these community artists. “We would love to see this tour happen on a yearly basis and have it continue to grow,” she said.

Admission is free and refreshments will be served at various studios. For further information, please call 631-834-9036.

All related information about the North Shore Artist Coalition, the Studio Artists and the Artist Open Studio Tour Map may be found on Facebook:

‘Catching Rabbits,’ 1839 oil painting by William Sidney Mount. Image from LIM

The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook bid bon voyage to William Sidney Mount’s painting, “Catching Rabbits” recently. The politically themed painting is on loan to the Dixon Gallery & Gardens in Memphis, Tenn., through Jan. 15 as part of a new exhibition titled Wild Spaces, Open Seasons: Hunting and Fishing in American Art, which celebrates artists’ captivation with hunting and fishing.

As we are bombarded with political messages in this historically significant presidential election, we can stop and examine the ironically parallel politics of Mount’s day depicted in his painting.

While the painting at first appears to be the triumphant illustration of two boys successfully trapping game, the underlying subject of “Catching Rabbits” is the contest between Democrats and Whigs in the 1840 presidential election. The boys in the painting represent the Whig Party “trapping” votes, while the rabbit signifies the Democratic Party, weakened by internal division and subjected to desertion by its membership. Mount’s imagery proved so apt that the Democrats adopted the concept of the trap for their campaign broadsides, which cautioned against being lured and caught by the Whigs.

Acorns are littering the lawns and decks of many homes on Long Island this year.

By Ellen Barcel

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Chicken Little shouted. Well, this year, the sky isn’t exactly falling, but leaves sure are and so are lots and lots of acorns. Why? Well, a bit of plant biology first and then some theories.

Over the many millions of years that plants have existed on Earth, they have evolved to survive in their unique environments. Long Island formed after the last glacier, around 10,000 years ago. Plants that evolved to survive well in acidic soil, like oak trees and pines, established themselves here — Long Island has very acidic soil. Since Long Island has occasional droughts, plants that do well in droughts also do well here.

This past year Long Island has gone through drought conditions. Seven of the past nine months (January through September) the rainfall has been below average. August, for example, received just over two inches while the average is slightly over four. June was also particularly bad with just over one inch of rain while the average is nearly four. So, the ability to withstand occasional drought conditions is very useful for plants that establish themselves on Long Island. And, yes, oak trees have a taproot that goes way down into the soil, where there is more likely to be water.

So, oak trees have two ways of growing well on Long Island: their ability to do well in acidic soil and their taproots. This year, it seems that the local oak trees have produced lots of those acorns, that is, the seeds for future generations of trees were abundant, very abundant. This abundance is referred to as masting or mast years.

Said a gardening friend of mine from Farmingville, “You can’t walk out of the house without slipping and sliding … I almost broke my neck … The deck is covered. All night you hear them falling … the gutters are full of them … when you drive down the driveway you crush them.”

So, the question is, why the abundance of acorns some years and not others? There must be some sort of survival mechanism in producing lots of acorns, but why some years and not others? There are many theories.

1. One is that an extensive crop of acorns predicts a harsh winter. This theory assumes that oak trees have some way of predicting the future. My feeling is that when a big acorn crop and a harsh winter coincide it’s more likely a coincidence than oak trees’ ability to predict the future.

2. A theory I read about many years ago is that an extensive acorn crop is a way that oak trees have of dealing with harsh conditions. By putting all their energy in a nasty year into producing acorns, they’re guaranteeing the survival of the species. This is more likely. We did have drought conditions this past year, but remember that oak trees, with their taproots, do well in drought conditions.

3. The most likely explanation, however, is that we had mild, favorable conditions in spring for the production of oak flowers and therefore acorns. As a result we have been inundated with a large crop, a crop that has been falling and falling all over the place. Of course, there may be other factors involved. Oak trees have both male and female flowers on the same tree. Suppose there is a late frost in the previous spring, damaging the flowers that will become future acorns. Or suppose it’s been a particularly windy spring, again damaging the flowers, or excessive rain-storms. White oak trees take one year to produce acorns, while red oak (which includes pin oaks) take two. So, if the trees that are masting are red oak, we need to go back two springs to examine the weather at that time, not just this past spring. Confusing, isn’t it?

Whatever your theory, the abundance of acorns sort of guarantees fat squirrels, deer, raccoons, possums, rabbits, chipmunks and even blue jays and wild turkeys this winter, even if it is a harsh one. In the meantime, get out your broom and at least clean the acorns from your walkways so you don’t slip.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

Thyme-Scented Roasted Vegetables and Beets

When the pace of family life gets busy, it seems easier than ever to forgo healthy eating plans, and the hectic autumn season is a big culprit. However, you don’t need to compromise flavor for nutrition when turning to convenient options that fit your busy lifestyle. Round out your meal with a simple side dish recipe focused on vegetables, such as Chili Lime Butternut Squash, Thyme-Scented Roasted Vegetables accented with sweet, tangy pickled beets or Caul-Slaw.

Chili Lime Butternut Squash

Chili Lime Butternut Squash
Chili Lime Butternut Squash

YIELD: Serves 4 to 6


4 cups butternut squash, large dice

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

olive oil spray

DIRECTIONS: Heat oven to 400 F. In bowl, toss all ingredients except olive oil spray together. Spray foil-lined sheet tray with olive oil spray and spread vegetables over tray. Roast in oven 20 minutes.

Thyme-Scented Roasted Vegetables and Beets

Thyme-Scented Roasted Vegetables and Beets
Thyme-Scented Roasted Vegetables and Beets

YIELD: Serves 4


1 jar (16 ounces) Aunt Nellie’s Whole Pickled Beets, drained, halved

1/2 pound baby carrots

1 medium onion, cut through core into 1/2-inch wedges

8 ounces shallots, peeled, halved if large

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

DIRECTIONS: Heat oven to 400 F. Line 15-by-10-inch jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Add beets, carrots, onion and shallots. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast, uncovered, 15 minutes. Add garlic to vegetables; toss well. Return to oven and continue roasting 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Note: 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme may be substituted for dried thyme leaves.



YIELD: Serves 8


5 cups cauliflower, grated

1 cup carrots, peeled and grated

3/4 cup ranch dressing, fat free

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup green onions, sliced

DIRECTIONS: In bowl, mix all ingredients together. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Tip: Cut cauliflower into quarters, keeping core attached; this will keep cauliflower from falling apart during grating.

Raffaella Sordella. Photo from the laboratory of Raffaella Sordella

By Daniel Dunaief

Raffaella Sordella, whose lyrical name reflects her upbringing in Italy, takes the fight against cancer personally. That’s because she underwent surgery for a tumor in her pancreas a few years ago when she, her husband Manuel Barriola and their young daughters Victoria and Alicia were living in Boston.

“The past few years I have made friends with many people who share firsthand experience with cancer,” she recalled in an email. “I have witnessed their strength and courage and they have been an incredible source of inspiration for our work, especially at times when the glass looked half-empty.”

Indeed, while she fought cancer herself, Sordella and the lab she leads as an associate professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory battle against the deadly disease every day. Recently, she made a discovery about a gene that has been among the most studied and carefully combed genetic regions of the human genome. A tumor suppressor gene, p53 protects against tumor growth. An increasing number of findings, however, point toward the possibility of p53 mutants that promote tumors.

In research published in eLife, Sordella found just such a mutant. Looking at a variation in which the gene is truncated, or cut short, a range of cancers can develop and can cause greater threats to a patient’s health. “Despite four decades and all these papers, this is completely new,” Sordella said.

As many as 10 to 15 percent of tumors of the pancreas, ovaries, melanoma, head and neck and small cell lung carcinoma have this truncated version of p53, according to Sordella. “If you have these mutations, your colon cancer tends to become more metastatic,” she said.

Sordella and her colleagues studied the signaling pathway that regulates the activity of this gene. They have found a path that may become a target for drugs. Her lab is in discussions with a pharmaceutical company to start clinical trials. Sordella suggested that this type of finding addresses the notion of individualized medicine, in which doctors and scientists search for the specific genetic regions that contribute to cancer, looking for ways to block them, turn them off or slow them down.

In this truncated version of p53, the genes are active in the mitochondria, or the powerhouse of the cell, where the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is produced. Sordella is studying how this mutant p53 can affect metabolism.

“The result is exciting because it was so unexpected,” Scott Lowe, the chair of the Cancer Biology & Genetics Program at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, wrote in an email. “The current work shows that these mutations can act as an ‘accelerator’ of tumorigenesis as well.” Lowe was a co-author on the study, who described his lab’s contributions as providing human data on the prevalence of truncated mutations in p53 in human tumors.

Researchers have dedicated considerable effort to understanding the tumor microenvironment. They are seeking to understand what a cancer might need from its immediate surroundings. Scientists studying other diseases, such as fibrosis, tissue chronic injuries, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are also dedicating considerable resources to understanding the microenvironment. The recent discovery has encouraged Sordella and her colleagues to explore the role of cancer cell metabolism, cancer cells and their interaction with the tumor microenvironment, while also exploring the druggability of downstream pathways. This form of the gene is interacting with cyclophilin D, which is an inner pore permeability regulatory. Cyclophilin D, as a result, could become the target for future drug treatments.

Lowe suggested that the “current study raises the possibility that cancers with truncating mutations in p53 would be susceptible to agents that block cyclophilin D,” but added that it “should be clear that this will require much further testing.” Still, he concluded that it “is exciting as the possibility of this approach was not previously appreciated.”

Sordella came upon the discovery of the role of this form of the gene by chance. The focus of her lab is to understand the mechanism of resistance in small cell lung cancers. She generated a model in which there was resistance to a particular inhibitor. When she conducted an expression profile, she found a shift in the molecular weight of p53. Cloning and sequencing the gene demonstrated an alternative splicing, or cutting, that nobody had described.

Sordella credits partners including Edward Kastenhuber, Marc Ladanyi and Lowe at Sloan Kettering with assisting in the analysis of the gene. Sordella appreciates the financial support of Swim Across America, an organization that raises money for cancer research and that has supported her research for several years. Swim Across America takes “great pride in each new finding as these are the building blocks for achieving the ultimate goal,” Daniel Cavallo III, the beneficiary chair of the Nassau-Suffolk Chapter of Swim Across America, wrote in an email. “All you need to do is speak with Dr. Sordella for a short time and it is so clearly evident just how passionate she is about her work,” Cavallo said. “Her hard work, dedication and commitment to the cause are extraordinary — this along with her achievements are part of why we continue to fund her research.”

As a child, Sordella said she had an interest in becoming a physicist. After witnessing the suffering and strain cancer inflicted on her family, including an uncle and grandfather who succumbed to the disease when she was 13, Sordella decided that battling this disease would be her mission. Her family, she said, instilled in her the sense of finding purpose beyond the accumulation of wealth and has established a foundation with the goal of caring for the elderly and promoting education. She hopes her work contributes to her family’s legacy. “Hopefully one day soon, I will be able to celebrate with them a new great victory in the fight against cancer,” she said.