David Hunter's principal research interests are the etiology of cancer, particularly breast, prostate, pancreas and skin cancers. He analyzes inherited susceptibility to cancer and other chronic diseases using molecular techniques and gene-environment interactions. This work is largely based in subcohorts of the Nurses' Health Study and the health Professionals Follow-up Study. Dr Hunter supervised laboratories at the harvard School of Public Health in which gene sequence information from these samples is obtained. Dr Hunter has also studied hIV transmission for over twenty years, initially in Kenya and then in Tanzania. He has collaborated with investigators in Dar-es-Salaam to understand the relationship of nutritional status to progression of hIV disease and perinatal transmission. Professor Hunter was the Director of the harvard Center for Cancer Prevention from 1997-2003. In June of 2009, he was appointed Dean for Academic Affairs at the School. he is also the Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention. He is the founding Director of HSPH's Program in Molecular and genetic epidemiology and is Principal Investigator of a number of ongoing breast and prostate cancer studies. He co-chaired the Steering Committee of the NCI Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium, was co-Director of the NCI Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility (CGEMS) Special Initiative, and was a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Cancer Institute. He is Contact Principal Investigator of the DRIVE (Discovery, Biology and Risk of Inherited Variants in Breast Cancer) Consortium.
Cancer, NCD’s and Global Health
Cancer deaths in the world will increase by about 50% in the next 15 years, driven by ageing and expanding populations, as well as increases in the prevalence of some risk factors. The global shift towards death from other NCD’s is fueled by many of the same factors. Primary prevention is critical to reducing cancer incidence, however, the global community has not effectively tackled key drivers such as tobacco consumption and obesity. Immunization against cancer-causing infections is incomplete, and absent entirely in some countries. We still have little understanding of the causes of some cancers e.g. prostate cancer and leukemias, and thus cannot propose interventions to reduce incidence, putting an upper bound on the proportion of cancer that can be prevented. While much of the focus of the cancer research establishment is on developing molecularly targeted therapies to extend life, most people with cancer in the world have little access to the cancer diagnostic capacity and the surgery, radiation therapy and proven medications that have partially contributed to declines in cancer mortality in developed countries. A renewed focus on primary prevention and greater access to diagnosis and treatment is needed to limit the global surge in cancer mortality. Reductions in risk factors such as smoking and weight gain will have benefits for other NCD’s such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes suggesting common approaches to prevention of a substantial fraction of NCD’s. Greater access to diagnosis and treatment of cancer however, require more specialized cancer-specific services. Primary prevention of cancers needs an even higher profile in planning for control of NCD’s.