Stephen S. Hecht, Ph.D. is currently a Wallin Land Grant Professor of Cancer Prevention in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and the Masonic Cancer Center. Dr. Hecht received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he also did postdoctoral research. He was previously Director of Research at the American Health Foundation, a cancer prevention research institute.
The Hecht laboratory focuses on mechanisms and prevention of tobacco-induced cancer. The goal of their research is to understand mechanisms by which carcinogens are metabolically activated and detoxified in humans, and use this knowledge to develop practical strategies for cancer prevention, including the identification of individuals particularly susceptible to the carcinogenic effects of tobacco products. His group studies carcinogens that are present in tobacco products, the human diet, and the general environment; particular focus is on nitrosamines, aldehydes, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Studies in laboratory animals are used to understand metabolic pathways. Then methods are developed to quantify metabolism of these carcinogens in humans, typically by employing GC-MS/MS, LC-MS/MS, or related methods to analyze carcinogen metabolites in urine, or carcinogen DNA or protein adducts in tissue or blood. These methods are applied in molecular epidemiology studies designed to determine factors that influence susceptibility to cancer development in exposed humans and in investigations of secondhand tobacco smoke exposure. Naturally occurring compounds that can prevent the metabolic activation of carcinogens or enhance their detoxification are also investigated. Mechanisms by which these chemopreventive agents act are determined in laboratory animals, then investigated in humans to investigate potential efficacy in cancer prevention.