AACR17: Study demonstrates that aggressive breast cancer cell grow quicker in obese tissue

A novel investigation has reported a link between breast cancer and obesity. The research led by by Liza Makowski (UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, NC, USA) reports that cancer cells grow faster when transplanted into fatty, obese tissue. The teams findings were presented at The American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2017 (held 1–5 April 2017, DC, USA).

“We’re interested in something termed the ‘microenvironment’, which is basically cells around the tumor and the chemicals those cells produce,” explained Makowski. Researchers observed how tumors developed when they transplanted and grew triple-negative breast cancer cells in obese, lean and formerly obese models.

Makowski went on to comment: “In breast cancer, we know that the cancer is embedded in very fatty tissue, because the breast is made up largely of adipose tissue. As a person becomes obese, that can change the adipose tissue or change this microenvironment where the cancer can start or progress.”

The results determined that tumors were significantly larger in the obese mouse models, when compared with lean and formerly obese mouse models. From these findings the researchers concluded that weight loss corrected the changes to the microenvironment that propelled cancer cell growth.

Alyssa Cozzo (UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health) explained the significance of the findings: “Where we saw the most changes were in the mammary glands around the tumorsl.This implies that the microenvironment surrounding the tumor can be a driver of tumor growth, even when the tumor cells and the other cells that make up the tumor itself are relatively similar.”

Makowski concluded: “The obese microenvironment (the mammary gland surrounding the tumor) can drive tumor growth even when the tumor cells come from a lean mouse, and, critically, the obese environment can be partially or completely reversed by weight loss.”

UNC Lineberger press release