Hari Nakshatri, PhD, is leading an effort to determine if differences in the normal healthy breast tissue of African American and Caucasian individuals might reveal susceptibility to specific types of tumors. Early data suggests that African American women tend to have a higher number of healthy breast cells that can become more aggressive if cancer develops. Nakshatri is growing non-cancerous breast cells from different racial and ethnic groups and then exposing them to different carcinogens in his laboratory to trigger cancer. This work will determine pathways involved in the very early development of breast cancer and how they differ among racial and ethnic groups. This understanding could lead to new screening or prevention options, better tailored to a patient’s individual risk.
To determine if social and physical stresses play a role in tumor type, Brittney-Shea Herbert, PhD; Anna Maria Storniolo, MD; and Hiromi Tanaka, PhD; along with behavioral and social scientists, deployed a questionnaire to explore the correlation of cumulative stress (emotional or physical) to telomere length, an indicator of both stress and the onset of breast cancer. Telomeres are caps on the tips of chromosomes that preserve genetic integrity. As people age, the tips become shortened making individuals more susceptible to disease and death.