Detecting Aggressive Breast Cancer Earlier

Triple negative breast cancer and the Warburg effect

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) African-American women tend to develop more aggressive breast cancers. Researchers have uncovered ways this cancer develops, offering new hope for early diagnosis.

Cellular behavior leading up to the development of deadly breast cancers has been identified. This may mean early detection, even prevention of this form of cancer, according to a new study.

"As a black woman, diet and exercise are critical in avoiding breast cancer."

African-American women are more prone to so-called triple-negative breast cancers that grow quickly and are fatal more often than not. Only 14 percent of women with this form of the disease are alive five years after diagnosis.

Researchers have discovered that the way this form of cancer develops is linked to how the body's cells consume and metabolize glucose. As a result, researchers believe that some conditions such as gestational diabetes and pre-diabetes might stimulate precancerous cells to become cancerous.

Lead investigator, Victoria L. Seewaldt, M.D. explains that these aggressive cancers gobble up glucose and produce lactic acid. This process is known as the Warburg effect, says Dr. Seewaldt, professor of medicine and co-director of the breast and ovarian cancer program at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Sugar becomes the cancer's primary energy source and helps the cancer cells grow very quickly, according to Dr. Seewaldt.

To learn more about the process, Dr. Seewaldt and colleagues looked at two groups of high-risk African-American women who had a family history of breast cancer.

The team found that the precancerous cells in a majority of these women were taking in large amounts of glucose wherein gestational diabetes might be the trigger for cancer development.

Dr. Seewaldt says that the good news is that obesity and gestational diabetes can be avoided and treated with diet and exercise. She also suggests that type 2 diabetes medications could be used as a part of a prevention strategy.

Findings from this research were presented at the Fourth American Association for Cancer Research Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities.

Research that has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal is considered preliminary.



Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 21, 2011
Last Updated:
October 5, 2011