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Gary Asher, MD, MPH, is a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center member and director of Integrative Medicine Services.

Professor, Family Medicine
Director, Integrative Medicine Services
UNC-Chapel Hill
Cancer Prevention and Control
Comprehensive Cancer Support Program

Area of Interest

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, 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 phosphatidylcholine 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.

Find publications on PubMed

Awards and Honors

  • KL2 Clinical Research Career Development Scholar, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2010
  • NIH Loan Repayment Program Award, 2010
  • GI SPORE Developmental Award, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2010
  • K30 Clinical Research Scholar, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2007

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Headshot of Gary Asher.