Genetic Research May Advance Understanding of Ethnic Differences in Breast Cancer
October 28, 2012
- Researchers compared triple-negative breast cancer samples from African-American and East African women.
- Ethnic-specific differences exist in genes expressed in breast cancer tissue.
- Data may advance knowledge of genetic/genomic basis of breast cancer.
SAN DIEGO — For the first time, researchers have provided a direct comparison of gene expression profiles from African-American and East African breast tissue samples, according to results presented at the Fifth AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities, held here Oct. 27-30, 2012.
The research, which began at the University of Miami in Florida and continues at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), should expand researchers’ understanding of breast cancer across different ethnicities. This knowledge may lead to new preventive, predictive and treatment measures, according to Lisa Baumbach-Reardon, Ph.D., associate professor in TGen’s Integrated Cancer Genomics Division in Arizona and director of TGen’s DNA Diagnostic Laboratory in Cancer Genomics.
Epidemiologic evidence indicates that breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among African-American women. Compared with Caucasians, African-Americans have a 20 percent higher mortality rate.
“Ethnic-specific differences exist in genes expressed in breast cancer tissue across ethnicities,” said Baumbach-Reardon. “Understanding significant ethnicity-specific differences will help us to better understand how and why breast cancer differs across different ethnicities and will ultimately help us to translate this knowledge into clinical practice.”
Researchers analyzed archived breast cancer pathology samples obtained from either the University of Miami or the Nairobi Cancer Registry. Forty-seven breast cancer samples came from Kenya. After reanalysis, the researchers confirmed that 29 of the Kenyan cases were triple-negative breast cancer; a high percentage of these cases were in an advanced stage and were high-grade.
“It is known that in this African region, breast cancer presents as an advanced-stage disease, composed mainly of poorly differentiated cancers that are less likely to be hormone-responsive (i.e., triple-negative breast cancer),” said Baumbach-Reardon. “This is very similar to the presentation of African-American women with breast cancer in the United States.”
Initial data analyses indicated there are gene expression differences within several key pathways, including signal transduction in the AKT signaling pathway, according to Baumbach-Reardon.
She and her colleagues also presented data on chromosomal aberrations and variants in a subset of the Kenyan samples.
The researchers do not yet fully understand why triple-negative breast cancer is overrepresented in women of African descent, although it is clear that multiple factors play a role, according to Baumbach-Reardon.
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Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes seven peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.
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