Nav: Home

New study: Aggressive breast cancer grows faster in obese environment

March 31, 2017

It's not just what's inside breast cancer cells that matters. It's also the environment surrounding cancer cells that drives the disease, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. In an abstract that will be presented April 3 at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2017, researchers will report their preliminary findings that cancer cells grew faster when they were transplanted into fatty, obese tissue. They believe the study can help explain the obesity cancer link, providing evidence that elements of the fatty tissue surrounding cancer cells may help the cancer to grow.

"We're interested in something called the 'microenvironment,' which is basically cells around the tumor and the chemicals those cells produce," said Liza Makowski, PhD, UNC Lineberger member and associate professor in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. "In breast cancer, we know that the cancer is embedded in very fatty tissue, because the breast is made up largely of adipose tissue. As a person becomes obese, that can change the adipose tissue, or change this microenvironment where the cancer can start or progress."

For the study, researchers in the Makowski lab studied a type of breast cancer known as triple-negative breast cancer. Researchers transplanted and grew triple negative breast cancer cells from lean laboratory models into models of obese, lean and formerly obese microenvironments to observe how tumors grew in these different contexts.

Tumors were significantly larger in the obese models than in the lean models, and larger than tumors in models that lost the weight. Their findings for the weight loss models suggest that weight loss corrected changes to the microenvironment that were helping drive the cancer.

When they analyzed the gene expression patterns occurring within the tumors themselves, they found that the alterations that occurred were "extremely subtle," Makowski said, and could not explain the dramatic tumor growth they saw in the obese mice.

"Where we saw the most changes were in the mammary glands around the tumors," said the study's first author Alyssa J. Cozzo, a graduate student in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. "This implies that the microenvironment surrounding the tumor can be a driver of tumor growth, even when the tumor cells and the other cells that make up the tumor itself are relatively similar."

Their findings have important implications for understanding the link between obesity and cancer.

"Our take-home message for this study was that, indeed, the obese microenvironment (the mammary gland surrounding the tumor) can drive tumor growth even when the tumor cells come from a lean mouse, and, critically, the obese environment can be partially or completely reversed by weight loss," Makowski said. "It's as if the cells do not 'remember' the obese exposure."

In a major symposium held from 1 to 2:45 p.m. Sunday at the AACR Annual Meeting called "Obesity, Inflammation, and the Adipose Microenvironment in Cancer," Makowski will be serving as chair. She will speak on the obesity-cancer link, and the role that immune cells surrounding tumors may play in also helping to drive the disease.
-end-
In addition to Cozzo and Makowski, other authors include Ottavia Zattra, Jonathan C. Schisler, and Alex J. Freemerman. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the University Cancer Research Fund, and through a Chancellor's Fellowship, Royster Society of Fellows.

UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Related Breast Cancer Articles:

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.
Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.
Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.
More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.
Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.
Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.
Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.
Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.
Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.
Does MRI plus mammography improve detection of new breast cancer after breast conservation therapy?
A new article published by JAMA Oncology compares outcomes for combined mammography and MRI or ultrasonography screenings for new breast cancers in women who have previously undergone breast conservation surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer initially diagnosed at 50 or younger.
More Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.