The Diabetes-Cancer Connection: Breast Cancer

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In September 2010, AICR published “The Diabetes-Cancer Connection” paper discussing the research on the link between these two diseases and how health professionals can counsel patients on lifestyle changes to lower risk of both.

Now several studies in the Journal of Clinical Oncology show how both type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance negatively impact prognosis in breast cancer patients. Those with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance do not fare as well as breast cancer patients who did not have those conditions.

An accompanying editorial discusses two simple procedures that health care providers should do for patients with breast cancer to improve outcomes.

1.            Measure waist circumference. This simple measure may point to metabolic syndrome associated with type 2 diabetes and related risk factors.

2.            Measure HOMA index (indicator of insulin resistance).

The authors of the editorial explain that with these measures, health care providers would be able to individualize a patient’s treatment to include diet and physical activity programs that are known to improve survival for many.

The editors give a call to action to integrate care of these two diseases:

“The time has come to overcome the conventional tunnel vision that results in two diseases being treated by separate clinicians, and to move towards a comprehensive approach that ideally integrates oncologists, internists, nutritionists, and other health care professionals in an attempt to improve breast cancer prognosis in a significant proportion of patients.” Read more… “The Diabetes-Cancer Connection: Breast Cancer”

From the AICR Research Conference: Dr. JoEllen Welsh on Vitamin D and Breast Cancer

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Dr. Welsh chaired our 2010 research conference and its plenary session on aging, diet, physical activity and cancer, but she also presented on her own research involving vitamin D and breast cancer.

Dr. Welsh reviews her presentation, and shares some of the implications of her cutting-edge, AICR-supported research.

Here’s a handy glossary to some of the terms she uses with which you might be unfamiliar:

“…knockout of the vdr…”:  Here, she’s talking about working w/an organism whose breast cells don’t respond to the presence of vitamin D, and tracking how this affects the way its breast tissue responds.  Her work suggests that vitamin D plays an important role in governing the breast’s immune response.

“…cytokines...”:  These are the cellular message-carriers of our immune system — they help our bodies defend against infections by passing along information and regulating our immune response.

“…the neonate…”:  The newborn.

Cancer, Nutrition and the Wide World of Proteins

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First there was genomics and now there is proteomics, one of the emerging areas of scientific research. Proteomics is the study of all the proteins made by our genes, and that’s a lot of proteins: Humans have about 20,000 genes and one gene could direct the production for tens of proteins.

It’s the nutritional proteomics session of the AICR Research Conference and there’s a lot of cutting-edge research being presented. As Dr. John Milner of the National Cancer Institute points out, food components all must have a target action site, and that is always a protein. Can exercise change our proteome? How do certain foods alter the proteome and thereby, help prevent cancer?

In one presentation, Dr. Coral Lamartiniere at the University of Alabama at Birmingham discussed his research showing that the timing of consuming a soy component – genistein – plays a big role in breast cancer risk. In animal studies, he found consumption of soy during pre-puberty reduced the risk of breast tumors. Once exposed to genistein during pre-puberty, consuming the compound as an adult increases the protective effect.

Then Dr. Lamartiniere identified the different proteins in the breast tissue between the animals that consumed and did not consume genistein.  Knowing the proteins involved will help researchers understand how genistein may play a role in breast cancer prevention and susceptibility.

It’s early, but nutritional proteomics holds a lot of promise for understanding cancer risk, says Dr. Milner. As this session made clear: more research is underway.