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Afshin Raouf

New research may help reduce breast cancer risk

May 8, 2015 — 

New research performed at CancerCare Manitoba and the University of Manitoba may help identify women at risk of developing estrogen-induced breast tumors.

Estrogen-induced tumors are the most common form of breast cancer and yet no diagnostic markers are available to predict the risk of developing this devastating disease in women.

Published this week in the journal of Endocrine Related Cancer, Manitoba researchers announced that for the first time they have successfully studied the effects of estrogen on healthy human breast cells and discovered that estrogen relays a different set of instructions in healthy breast cells compared to breast cancer cells.

“This is an important step toward understanding the abnormal reaction of breast cells to estrogen and how to detect them in otherwise healthy women,” says Afshin Raouf, assistant professor, regenerative medicine program, department of immunology, University of Manitoba, research scientist, Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology and the senior author of the article. “Because our knowledge regarding the effects of estrogen on cells has been limited to cancer cells only, it has not been possible to look for abnormal changes in the way apparently normal cells respond to estrogen, which could be predictive of risk of developing breast cancer.”

“In this study we provide the first step in studying the set of instructions that are activated in cancer cells but not in healthy breast cells. Such ‘cancer-specific’ instructions that are activated by estrogen in cells can be used to identify women who are at risk of developing estrogen-responsive breast cancer.”

The collaborative efforts of Manitoba researchers provided the first look at how healthy cells respond to estrogen compared to breast cancer cell and led to these unanticipated findings.

The research was funded by grants from Prairies-Northwest Territories division of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, Manitoba Health Research Council (now Research Manitoba), and the University of Manitoba. This study was also supported by Manitoba Breast Tumor Bank, a member of the Canadian Tumor Repository Network and input from the Manitoba Breast Cancer Research Group.

The study can be found here on the Society for Endocrinology website.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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