DEC 31, 2018 3:26 PM PST

Insight Into How Lifestyle Choices Impact Breast Cancer

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Research has established that the development of cancer in connected to lifestyle choices like poor diet and low exercise levels. But researchers are still investigating the biology underlying that link. Molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) might be a key to explaining how behaviors increase the risk of cancer or decrease the effectiveness of a cancer therapeutic called tamoxifen. New work by scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has suggested that high AGE levels might stop tamoxifen therapy from working in patients with estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer. The findings have been reported in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

AGEs build up naturally over time as our bodies break down the foods we consume. Processed foods that are high in sugar and fat, as well as certain cooking techniques like frying or grilling, all increase the level of AGEs. They are described in the video.

"By showing that AGEs in the diet may impact how well breast cancer patients respond to therapy we can make breast cancer patients aware of their existence," said the co-corresponding author of the report David P. Turner, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the MUSC College of Medicine and a member of the Hollings Cancer Center. "And we can design lifestyle interventions aimed at reducing AGE intake."

The accumulation of AGEs can lead to damage that is linked to disorders like arthritis, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. AGEs can cause a disruption in the balance of antioxidants and free radicals and lead to chronic inflammation, which underlies many diseases.

In this work, the researchers demonstrated that high levels of AGEs can turn on certain cellular pathways continuously, encouraging cancer growth. One important molecule in those pathways has been identified as a player in Estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and -negative breast cancer. That led the researchers to hypothesize that AGE signaling has a role in ER-positive breast cancer (which is outlined in the video below).

It was found that AGEs activate a molecule called estrogen receptor alpha in a cell culture model of breast cancer. When the cancer cells were exposed to tamoxifen, they stopped growing. But when AGEs were added, the cells began to grow again, suggesting that in patients with high levels of AGEs, tamoxifen treatment may not work.

Led by Turner, researchers also showed that in overweight women with non-metastatic ER-positive breast cancer, exercise and dietary changes lowered AGE levels.

The team, who also included Marvella E. Ford, Ph.D., a professor in the MUSC College of Medicine and associate director of Cancer Disparities at Hollings Cancer Center, wants to expand the work, and investigate the pathways in more detail in animal models. Future studies may indicate how lifestyle choices that lower AGEs can help cancer treatment work well.

Image credit: Pixabay

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via Medical University of South Carolina, Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAR 08, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
MAR 08, 2020
Zigzagging DNA
Cells have to store the entire genome in the nucleus, and this lengthy DNA molecule has to be carefully packaged by prot ...
MAR 16, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
MAR 16, 2020
Amyloids Are Linked to Disease, But One Has a Functional Role
Amyloids have traditionally been known as pathogenic accumulations of proteins. New work suggests they may have other pu ...
MAR 18, 2020
MAR 18, 2020
Immune cells can ease chronic pain
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Pain insists upon being attended to.” This is especially true for patients suff ...
MAR 20, 2020
Health & Medicine
MAR 20, 2020
Why Does COVID-19 Kill So Many Older People?
Since early statistics began to emerge from China, it seemed that COVID-19 tended to affect older people more than young ...
APR 03, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
APR 03, 2020
Physical Forces Can Change How Genes Are Expressed
Less than a millisecond after a cell is stretched out, genes are activated, which will result in the production of prote ...
APR 13, 2020
APR 13, 2020
The Memory Cells that Help Us Interpret Different Situations
Neuroscientists from MIT have identified cell populations that encode different parts of an overall experience. Like the ...
Loading Comments...