Can We Starve Cancer Through Our Food Choices?

Cancer is very often on the minds of Delawareans, as we have all been touched by it, either directly or indirectly.  Delaware has one of the highest rates in the nation; in 2000, we had the dubious distinction of being #1 in the U.S. for cancer incidence, and today we have improved to #14.  While there is still a long road to travel, our community is making strides on many fronts.  The Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, led by Dr. Nicholas Petrelli, is at the forefront of these efforts and has focused on treatment and screening over the years, with an increasing focus on lifestyle and prevention.

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Dr. William Li

It is against this backdrop that renowned researcher and doctor, William Li, came to the Wilmington Country Club on October 9.  Dr. Li was the featured speaker of the Friends of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute’s An Evening of Hope.  He spoke to a full house, bringing hope to the audience as he increased awareness that dietary choices can indeed minimize one’s risk of developing cancer.

Dr. Li is Medical Director and Co-founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation in Cambridge, MA.  He has dedicated three decades to studying angiogenesis, which is the process where the body creates new blood vessels from existing ones.  Dr. Li explained that angiogenesis is an important natural process used for healing and reproduction. The body controls angiogenesis by producing a precise balance of blood vessel growth in healthy tissues. When this balance is disturbed, the result is either too much or too little angiogenesis. Abnormal blood vessel growth is now recognized as a “common denominator” underlying more than 70 of society’s most dreaded and debilitating conditions, including cancer, skin diseases, age-related blindness, diabetic ulcers, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and many others. The list of diseases that have angiogenesis as an underlying mechanism grows longer every year. (


Friends of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center Co-Chairs Karen Kimmel Legum and Diane du Pont with Pat Hoge

Specifically with regard to cancer, Dr. Li stated that microscopic cancers form in our bodies all the time, but are mostly harmless when we possess a healthy balance of angiogenesis. These particular cancers aren’t visible on a standard X-ray or body scan. However, it is the larger, widespread cancers that concern health providers. Angiogenesis has been considered to be the basic step that moves a tumor from a benign state to that of a malignant one. According to Dr. Li, a major reason cancer is so difficult to cure is that by the time it can be detected, it is often quite advanced. In a person with metastatic cancer, uncontrolled angiogenesis keeps fuel the growth of cancer cells, allowing them to spread.

Without angiogenesis, cancers can’t grow and become dangerous. Thus, the Angiogenesis Foundation has been studying abreakthrough approach of “anti-angiogenesis,” or suppressing the abnormal blood vessel growth that feeds a cancerous tumor.  While there are medications on the market that suppress angiogenesis, certain foods have also been shown to have properties that can starve the microscopic cancers.  This is where your everyday diet comes into play. (

Dr. Li’s recommendations of anti-angiogenic foods are listed below:


In today’s world where environment and diet have an increasing impact on our health, it is important to continue to look for ways that we can be in more control of our health.  Dr. William Li provided interesting information and action steps, thereby bringing hope to us all.

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  • I wish I could have attended this event. I did not know about it at all, but truly glad to stumble upon this article. As a cancer survivor, recently moved to DE several years ago, I truly believe what Dr. Li is studying and promoting is the future of cancer prevention. There is so much research that is undiscovered around anti-angiogenesis and how inflammation causes cancer cells to grow and become malignant. Thank you for spreading the word!

  • I attended this event and thought it was very informative. I also appreciate Penny Saridakis’ article because it shows that the Helen Graham center is really focused on prevention by bringing in speakers like Dr Li. Thank you for that!

    My mother, a recent cancer survivor, invited me to listen to Dr. Li and we were impressed and well informed. As a daughter of a cancer survivor, I am always seeking out ways to avoid becoming another statistic and I must say in the past few years, the center has really highlighted this part. I was even impressed with the speech by Christine Perillo a few years ago. Quite honestly, this is so much better than the Monte Carlo evenings I would attend with my ex-husband.

    I do wish, as the previous commenter mentions, that they would do more to promote these speaker events so that more people can learn about ways to prevent cancer or minimize the risk of deadly outcome. We are fortunate to have the Center here in Delaware.

    Thank you for this article and for continuing to spread the word.