Residual fetal cells in women may provide protection against breast cancer

October 01, 2007

SEATTLE - Fetal cells that persist in a woman's body long after pregnancy - a common occurrence known in scientific circles as fetal microchimerism - in some cases may reduce the woman's risk of breast cancer, according to researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The findings, published in the Oct. 1 issue of Cancer Research, add to the Jekyll and Hyde characteristics of fetal microchimerism, or FMc, which has been found to be both detrimental and beneficial to women's health.

In this latest prospective study, scientists V.K. Gadi, M.D., Ph.D. and J. Lee Nelson, M.D., examined the blood of 82 women post-pregnancy, 35 of whom had had breast cancer. They looked for male DNA in the blood, presuming it was present due to a prior pregnancy. Fetal microchimerism (FMc) was found significantly more often in healthy women than women with a history of breast cancer, 43 percent versus 14 percent respectively. The scientists concluded that FMc may contribute to reduction of breast cancer based on the hypothesis that residual fetal cells may provide immune surveillance of malignant cells in the mother. They caution that further studies are needed to confirm the theory.

"To our knowledge, the current results provide the first indication that FMc could impart a protective effect against breast cancer," Gadi said.

Prior research into FMc, some of it performed at the Hutchinson Center, indicates that while the presence of fetal cells in women may confer immune protection and promote cell repair, such cells also may be harbingers of some autoimmune diseases.

Two observations provided a rationale for the study hypothesis of the potential beneficial role of fetal cells, according to the authors. It is well established that women who have given birth have a lower risk of breast cancer. And, allogeneic (from another individual) stem-cell transplants are used to treat many types of blood cancers by replacing a diseased immune system with a healthy one

Additionally, fetal cells are commonly found in the circulating blood of healthy women who have given birth. Fetal cells represent a naturally acquired source of allogeneic immune cells; in prior studies the prevalence of T, B, natural-killer (NK) and antigen-presenting cells of fetal origin in healthy women ranged from 30 percent to 70 percent, depending on the cell type. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Amgen Inc.
-end-
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit fhcrc.org.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Related Breast Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Oncotarget: IGF2 expression in breast cancer tumors and in breast cancer cells
The Oncotarget authors propose that methylation of DVDMR represents a novel epigenetic biomarker that determines the levels of IGF2 protein expression in breast cancer.

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.

Read More: Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.