DOD Funds Study of Link between Diabetes and Breast Cancer

Researchers at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have received a three-year, $1.5 million grant to study a protein known as RAGE — an acronym for Receptor for Advanced Glycation End-products — that may be a link between diabetes and breast cancer.

Diabetes increases the risk of developing numerous cancers including liver, pancreatic, colorectal, bladder and breast cancer. In women with breast cancer, the presence of diabetes not only is associated with increased risk of developing breast cancer, but also with more advanced stage disease and higher mortality rates.

“It is not fully clear why women with diabetes have a higher risk of breast cancer and worse outcomes.” said Barry I. Hudson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Cell Biology and one of the principal investigators in the study. “While many women have both diabetes and breast cancer, and they share major risk factors, the biological link between these two deadly disease states is less clear.”

“Our research has shown that RAGE increases the severity of both the complications of diabetes and breast cancer malignancy in animal models of these diseases states. RAGE is a receptor present on the surface of normal cells, but gets switched on by many of the inflammatory proteins produced in both cancer and diabetes.”

Prior research by Hudson and his co-principal investigator, Marc Lippman, M.D., Sylvester’s deputy director, has shown that a novel small molecule inhibitor of RAGE reduces tumor malignancy and inflammation, enabling the researchers to prevent breast cancer metastasis in mouse models.

“We plan to test if RAGE is the link between diabetes and worse outcomes in breast cancer,” said Hudson. “Further we will test the potential for our RAGE drug to block breast cancer progression and metastasis. We are extremely grateful to the Department of Defense for funding our bold ideas, which have the potential not only to understand how diabetes affects breast cancer metastasis, but also to further the potential use of RAGE inhibitors in people with breast cancer.”

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