Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

More clues on how pregnancy protects against breast cancer

Date:
April 7, 2014
Source:
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Summary:
New clues about how pregnancy reduces women's risk of developing breast cancer have been unearthed by researchers. Taking a detailed look at the genetic material of women who had and had not given birth, the researchers noted differences in elements related to key processes that, when they go awry, can increase the risk of developing cancer.

Scientists at Fox Chase Cancer Center have unearthed new clues about how pregnancy reduces women's risk of developing breast cancer. The research will be presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2014.

Taking a detailed look at the genetic material of women who had and had not given birth, the researchers noted differences in elements related to key processes that, when they go awry, can increase the risk of developing cancer.

Ideally, researchers will one day be able to mimic these changes in women who have not been pregnant in order to reduce their risk of developing cancer, says study author Julia Santucci-Pereira, PhD, Research Associate in the Breast Cancer Research Laboratory at Fox Chase.

"We are trying to understand how the natural process of giving birth helps prevent cancer," she says. "If we understand it, we can try to mimic this process somehow, especially in women who are at high risk of developing the disease."

In one study, that will be presented on the afternoon of Monday, April 7, Santucci-Pereira and her colleagues used sophisticated sequencing technology to compare the genetic activity of cancer-free breast tissue samples from more than 100 premenopausal women -- 30 of whom had never given birth. They spotted differences in the expression of genes that were associated with the process cells undergo to become specialized types, known as differentiation. This isn't a surprise, says Santucci-Pereira, since problems in differentiation can cause cells to become cancerous.

In addition, she and her colleagues noticed clear differences between mothers and non-mothers in the expression of genes related to the development of breast anatomy. This, too, makes sense, says Santucci-Pereira, as this process must be well regulated in order to avoid cancer.

In another study presented during the same session, Santucci-Pereira and her team identify additional genetic changes that may help explain how pregnancy protects against breast cancer. Looking at 10 women who had undergone menopause, they found that mothers and non-mothers displayed differences in how their genes were modified -- specifically, by being tagged with chemical groups, which influences how those genes are used by the body. Here, again, they found differences in processes associated with the development of breast anatomy.

"Although this research brings scientists closer to understanding why pregnancy protects the body from cancer, how that happens remains a puzzle," says Santucci-Pereira. One possibility, she says, is that the hormone produced during pregnancy -- human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) -- induces these changes. Indeed, previous research in animals and human cells has found that adding HCG can produce other genetic changes tied to differentiation and development; study author Jose Russo, MD, who heads the Breast Cancer Research Laboratory at Fox Chase, is continuing to study HCG's effects on cancer. "We're trying to mimic pregnancy without making women get pregnant," says Santucci-Pereira.

Finally, in another study that will be presented on the morning of Monday, April 7, Santucci-Pereira and other scientists at Fox Chase looked deeply at differences in stretches of genetic material dubbed "non-coding," meaning they do not contain instructions for making protein. These are regions scientists once thought were "useless," says Santucci-Pereira, but now realize they interact with other parts of the genome and enhance their function. The next step is to try to understand what these non-coding regions actually do, including their role in cancer. "This is a very new field."

In the latest study, Santucci-Pereira and her colleagues identified 42 differences in non-coding regions between 8 mothers and 8 non-mothers. It's possible, she says, that these non-coding regions work with the genes identified in the other two studies to induce changes in the differentiation and development processes, thereby protecting women who have given birth.

Like with the other research, the goal is to find ways that mimic these effects in non-mothers -- perhaps by administering compounds that target non-coding regions -- they experience the same protection against breast cancer, says Santucci-Pereira. "There are ways, molecularly, to target non-coding regions," she says. "We are just trying to figure out how that would work."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Fox Chase Cancer Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Fox Chase Cancer Center. "More clues on how pregnancy protects against breast cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140407165218.htm>.
Fox Chase Cancer Center. (2014, April 7). More clues on how pregnancy protects against breast cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140407165218.htm
Fox Chase Cancer Center. "More clues on how pregnancy protects against breast cancer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140407165218.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two US Ebola Patients Leave Hospital Free of the Disease

Two US Ebola Patients Leave Hospital Free of the Disease

AFP (Aug. 21, 2014) Two American missionaries who were sickened with Ebola while working in Liberia and were treated with an experimental drug are doing better and have left the hospital, doctors say on August 21, 2014. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) Contains graphic content. He's only 17. But Johntrell Bowles has wanted to be a doctor from a young age, despite the odds against him. He was recently the youngest participant in a cadaver program at the Indiana University NW medical school. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) It's unclear whether the American Ebola patients' recoveries can be attributed to an experimental drug or early detection and good medical care. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins