Tuesday 24 May 2016 8:27am
A team of specialist cancer researchers have joined forces to focus on the impact of obesity on breast cancer.
Three University of Otago, Christchurch, researchers who usually investigate different aspects of cancer decided to team up because of the significant health impact of obesity.
The team is Associate Professor Gabi Dachs and Drs Logan Walker and Margaret Currie. They are all part of the Mackenzie Cancer Research group headed by Canterbury District Health Board oncologist Professor Bridget Robinson.
Obese patients less likely to survive.
Breast cancer patients who were obese before or after diagnosis are less likely to survive than patients with normal BMI, international studies show. Risk of dying from breast cancer increases by a third for every increment of 5kg/m2 in BMI.
We're asking: Why?
The three researchers are investigating different aspects of obesity and breast cancer, including:
• molecular factors associated with obesity in cancer, particularly how fat cells communicate with cancer cells and negatively affect them. (Gabi Dachs)
• putting fat and breast cancer cells together to see how fat cells make tumours more resistant to treatment. Fat cells may provide ‘an extra energy hit’ to cancer cells by providing lipids, or fats, in addition to glucose. (Margaret Currie)
• whether the obesity-related gene responsible for the amylase enzyme in saliva (AMY1) contributes to breast cancer development, and exploring the role of key genes that behave differently in breast tumours from obese women. (Logan Walker)
Breast cancer and obesity: the facts
• Breast cancer patients who were obese before or after diagnosis are less likely to survive than patients with normal BMI.
• Risk of dying from breast cancer increases by a third for every increment of 5kg/m2 in BMI.
• About 30% of New Zealanders are overweight and an additional 40% are obese.
• Death from breast cancer in Maori is double that of non-Maori.
• Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in NZ women and the second most common cause of cancer death.
The researchers' work is made possible by the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation, the Cancer Society of New Zealand, the Canterbury and West Coast Division of the Cancer Society NZ, the Mackenzie Charitable Foundation and the University of Otago.