Researchers and fundraisers alike are passionate about finding innovative, new and more effective treatments for breast cancer in women. Breast cancer forms in the tissue of the breast, and the most common form is ductal carcinoma, which begins in the lining of the milk ducts. In 2014, 232,670 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, while the death rate for 2014 was 40,000 women.
Being overweight or obese complicates treatment further, but some researchers want to find ways to more effectively treat these patients as well. Analytical lab studies by science researchers at the University of Texas have shown that hormone therapy combined with anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can lower the breast cancer recurrence rates for postmenopausal overweight or obese breast cancer patients.
“Overweight or obese women diagnosed with breast cancer are facing a worse prognosis than normal-weight women,” says Dr. Linda deGraffenried. “We believe that obese women are facing a different disease. There are changes at the molecular level. We seek to modulate the disease promoting effects of obesity.”
Image courtesy of the University of Texas
Dr. deGraffenried is a science researcher at the University of Texas whose work focuses on breast cancer, cell signalling, hormones and prostate cancer. One phase of her analytical lab research involves examining how omega-3 fatty acids, often found in fish oil, may be used to improve patient outcome in cases of breast cancer. Dr. deGraffenried researches how fish oil can both improve tumor response to accepted therapies and work as a means of prevention for women at high risk for developing breast cancer.
Her latest research focuses on how NSAIDs may help breast cancer recurrence rates in overweight and obese women. In a retrospective analytical lab investigation of human subjects and cell cultures, Dr. deGraffenried and her team of science researchers discovered that using NSAIDs reduces the recurrence rate of the most common form of breast cancer by 50 percent and reduces patients’ cancer-free time period by more than two years.
Although the reasons for obese women responding differently to breast cancer treatment, and for common treatments being less effective in these women, are unknown, science researchers at the University of Texas believe inflammation plays a key role. The researchers' findings suggested that inflammation negatively affects the effectiveness of aromatase inhibitors, a type of drug often prescribed to prevent cancer recurrence.
“Clinicians are finding that the five-year recurrence rate for postmenopausal women is much higher on aromatase inhibitors when the patient is obese,” deGraffenried remarked. “We would like to identify which women are most likely to benefit from interventions like adding NSAIDs to treatment regimens.”
In order to keep their analytical labs well stocked for studies such as this, science researchers at the University of Texas require significant amounts of funding. In 2014, the National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Texas, Austin $47.3 million in research funding, while the National Science Foundation also awarded the University of Texas, Austin $61.6 million in funding last year.
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