Michael J. Wargovich, PhD
Michael Wargovich, of The University of Texas at San Antonio, has been a “bench” scientist for the last several decades and, in the process, he has spearheaded research in the field of “chemoprevention” – an area of cancer research that is only 20 years old.
Chemoprevention springs from the premise that cancer is preventable – or pre-cancers can be inhibited from becoming cancerous – through the use of natural compounds or pharmaceuticals. During his tenure with MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he arrived in 1984, Michael pioneered the development of preventive agents for use in human clinical trials. Through the research done in his lab, discoveries included preventive roles for the compounds in green and black tea, herbal and alternative medicine products, citrus and cruciferous vegetables.
Michael has spent the better part of his career traveling across the world to study populations of people who do not have the same diseases found in western populations, and seeing how this changes as their diets become more westernized.
During the last six years, Michal’s research has taken him to India, where he was drawn to an Indian ayurvedic plant called “meem,” which has been used in traditional Indian medicine for centuries for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Over the course of six trips to India to learn more about the meem tree, Michael discovered that it harbors many natural components, both anti-viral and anti-bacterial. He explained that bark from the meem tree serves as the “poor man’s toothbrush.”
“Poor people snap off a branch and use the end as a toothbrush.”
Michael’s wife found a toothpaste made from the meem tree and the couple began using it. He reported that their dentist has been astonished by the great condition of their teeth. “And I don’t even floss!” he added.
This led to more serious research that has progressed over the last seven years. In the process, Michael and his team have found that meem is spectacular in preventing colorectal and mouth cancer.
“The work being done in our lab on oral cancer has been persuasive enough to convince five major hospitals to do head and neck cancer clinical trials.”
Michael is a native of Pittsburgh, PA, graduating with a B.A. in biology from Washington and Jefferson College and an M.S. in biological sciences from Duquesne University. In 1979, he received a Ph.D. in microbiology from Texas Tech University, followed by postdoctoral studies at Ontario Cancer Institute and Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Toronto, Canada.
Michael was first introduced to SIO at the annual conference in Miami.
“I was taken by the interdisciplinary membership. This was the first time I found oncologists who practiced traditional as well as “alternative” medicine.”
After 30 years of studying natural products and their potential to prevent cancers, Michael said it was great to find comrades who shared his point of view. Since then, Dr. Wargovich continues to make meaningful contributions to SIO as a member of the Research Committee, the Board of Trustees, Co-Chair of the SIO2019 Scientific Review and, most recently, the Nominating Committee.