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1.  Germline BRCA mutation evaluation in a prospective triple-negative breast cancer registry: implications for hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer syndrome testing 
NCCN guidelines recommend genetic testing for all triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients aged ≤60 years. However, due to the lack of prospective information in unselected patients, these guidelines are not uniformly adopted by clinicians and insurance carriers. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of BRCA mutations and evaluate the utility of NCCN guidelines in unselected TNBC population. Stage I–IV TNBC patients were enrolled on a prospective registry at academic and community practices. All patients underwent BRCA1/2 testing. Significant family history (SFH) was defined >1 relative with breast cancer at age ≤50 or ≥1 relative with ovarian cancer. Mutation prevalence in the entire cohort and subgroups was calculated. 207 TNBC patients were enrolled between 2011 and 2013. Racial/ethnic distribution: Caucasian (80 %), African–American (14 %), Ashkenazi (1 %). Deleterious BRCA1/2 mutations were identified in 15.4 % (32/207) of patients (BRCA1:11.1 %, BRCA2:4.3 %). SFH reported by 36 % of patients. Mutation prevalence in patients with and without SFH was 31.6 and 6.1 %, respectively. When assessed by age at TNBC diagnosis, the mutation prevalences were 27.6 % (≤50 years), 11.4 % (51–60 years), and 4.9 % (≥61 years). Using SFH or age ≤50 as criteria, 25 and 34 % of mutations, respectively, were missed. Mutation prevalence in patients meeting NCCN guidelines was 18.3 % (32/175) and 0 % (0/32) in patients who did not meet guidelines (p = .0059). In this unselected academic and community population with negligible Ashkenazi representation, we observed an overall BRCA mutation prevalence rate of 15.4 %. BRCA testing based on NCCN guidelines identified all carriers supporting its routine application in clinical practice for TNBC.
PMCID: PMC4171847  PMID: 24807107
Triple-negative breast cancer; Germline BRCA mutation; Genetic testing guidelines; NCCN guidelines
2.  Omega-3 fatty acids for breast cancer prevention and survivorship 
Women with evidence of high intake ratios of the marine omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) relative to the omega-6 arachidonic acid have been found to have a reduced risk of breast cancer compared with those with low ratios in some but not all case–control and cohort studies. If increasing EPA and DHA relative to arachidonic acid is effective in reducing breast cancer risk, likely mechanisms include reduction in proinflammatory lipid derivatives, inhibition of nuclear factor-κB-induced cytokine production, and decreased growth factor receptor signaling as a result of alteration in membrane lipid rafts. Primary prevention trials with either risk biomarkers or cancer incidence as endpoints are underway but final results of these trials are currently unavailable. EPA and DHA supplementation is also being explored in an effort to help prevent or alleviate common problems after a breast cancer diagnosis, including cardiac and cognitive dysfunction and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. The insulin-sensitizing and anabolic properties of EPA and DHA also suggest supplementation studies to determine whether these omega-3 fatty acids might reduce chemotherapy-associated loss of muscle mass and weight gain. We will briefly review relevant omega-3 fatty acid metabolism, and early investigations in breast cancer prevention and survivorship.
PMCID: PMC4418048  PMID: 25936773
3.  Hyperbaric oxygen improves engraftment of ex-vivo expanded and gene transduced human CD34+ cells in a murine model of umbilical cord blood transplantation 
Delayed engraftment and graft failure represent major obstacles to successful umbilical cord blood (UCB) transplantation. Herein, we evaluated the use of hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy as an intervention to improve human UCB stem/progenitor cell engraftment in an immune deficient mouse model. Six-to eight-week old NSG mice were sublethally irradiated 24 hours prior to CD34+ UCB cell transplant. Irradiated mice were separated into a non-HBO group (where mice remained under normoxic conditions) and the HBO group (where mice received two hours of HBO therapy; 100% oxygen at 2.5 atmospheres absolute). Four hours after completing HBO therapy, both groups intravenously received CD34+ UCB cells that were transduced with a lentivirus carrying luciferase gene and expanded for in vivo imaging. Mice were imaged and then sacrificed at one of 10 times up to 4.5 months post-transplant. HBO treated mice demonstrated significantly improved bone marrow, peripheral blood , and spleen (p=0.0293) retention and subsequent engraftment. In addition, HBO significantly improved peripheral, spleen and bone marrow engraftment of human myeloid and B-cell subsets. In vivo imaging demonstrated that HBO mice had significantly higher ventral and dorsal bioluminescence values. These studies suggest that HBO treatment of NSG mice prior to UCB CD34+ cell infusion significantly improves engraftment.
PMCID: PMC4075130  PMID: 23953010
Umbilical cord blood; CD34+; engraftment; hyperbaric oxygen
4.  Favorable Modulation of Benign Breast Tissue and Serum Risk Biomarkers Is Associated with >10% Weight Loss in Postmenopausal Women 
We conducted a phase II feasibility study of a 6 month behavioral weight loss intervention in postmenopausal overweight and obese women at increased risk for breast cancer and the effects of weight loss on anthropomorphic, blood, and benign breast tissue biomarkers. 67 women were screened by random peri-areolar fine needle aspiration (RPFNA), 27 were registered and 24 participated in the interventional phase. The 24 biomarker evaluable women had a median baseline BMI of 34.2 kg/m2 and lost a median of 11% of their initial weight. Significant tissue biomarker modulation after the 6 month intervention was noted for Ki-67 (if restricted to the 15 women with any Ki-67 at baseline, p=0.041), adiponectin to leptin ratio (p=0.003); and cyclin B1 (p=0.001), phosphorylated retinoblastoma (p=0.005), and ribosomal S6 (p=0.004) proteins. Favorable modulation for serum markers was observed for sex hormone binding globulin (p<0.001), bioavailable estradiol (p<0.001), bioavailable testosterone (p=0.033), insulin (p=0.018), adiponectin (p=0.001), leptin (p<0.001), the adiponectin to leptin ratio (p<0.001), C-reactive protein (p=0.002) and hepatocyte growth factor (p=0.011). When subdivided by < or > 10% weight loss, change in percent total body and android (visceral) fat, physical activity and the majority of the serum and tissue biomarkers were significantly modulated only for women with >10% weight loss from baseline. Some factors such as serum PAI-1 and breast tissue pS2 (estrogen inducible gene) mRNA were not significantly modulated overall but were when considering only those with >10% weight loss. In conclusion, a median weight loss of 11% over 6 months resulted in favorable modulation of a number of anthropomorphic, breast tissue and serum risk and mechanistic markers. Weight loss of 10% or more should likely be the goal for breast cancer risk reduction studies in obese women.
PMCID: PMC3921968  PMID: 24141897
Breast Cancer Risk Biomarkers; Weight Loss
5.  Effect of vitamin D supplementation on serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels, joint pain, and fatigue in women starting adjuvant letrozole treatment for breast cancer 
Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency may contribute to musculoskeletal symptoms and bone loss observed in women taking aromatase inhibitors (AIs). This study was conducted to determine the prevalence of suboptimal vitamin D levels in women initiating adjuvant letrozole for breast cancer and to determine whether supplementation with 50,000 IU of vitamin D3 weekly could reduce musculoskeletal symptoms and fatigue in women who have suboptimal vitamin D levels. Sixty women about to begin an adjuvant AI were enrolled. Baseline 25OHD levels were obtained, and women completed symptom questionnaires. They were then started on letrozole, along with standard dose calcium and vitamin D. Four weeks later, women with baseline 25OHD levels ≤40 ng/ml started additional vitamin D3 supplementation at 50,000 IU per week for 12 weeks. 25OHD levels were re-assessed at 4, 10, and 16 weeks; the questionnaires were repeated at weeks 4 and 16. At baseline, 63% of women exhibited vitamin D deficiency (<20 ng/ml) or insufficiency (20–31 ng/ml). 25OHD levels >40 ng/ml were achieved in all 42 subjects who received 12 weeks of supplementation with 50,000 IU vitamin D3 weekly, with no adverse effects. After 16 weeks of letrozole, more women with 25OHD levels >66 ng/ml (median level) reported no disability from joint pain than did women with levels <66 ng/ml (52 vs. 19%; P = 0.026). Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are prevalent in post-menopausal women initiating adjuvant AI. Vitamin D3 supplementation with 50,000 IU per week is safe, significantly increases 25OHD levels, and may reduce disability from AI-induced arthralgias.
PMCID: PMC4182952  PMID: 19655244
Breast cancer; Vitamin D; Letrozole; Vitamin D deficiency; Aromatase inhibitors; Endocrine therapy; Joint pain; Arthralgias
6.  The prognostic value of BRCA1 promoter methylation in early stage triple negative breast cancer 
Methylation of the BRCA1 promoter is frequent in triple negative breast cancers (TNBC) and results in a tumor phenotype similar to BRCA1-mutated tumors. BRCA1 mutation-associated cancers are more sensitive to DNA damaging agents as compared to conventional chemotherapy agents. It is not known if there is an interaction between the presence of BRCA1 promoter methylation (PM) and response to chemotherapy agents in sporadic TNBC. We sought to investigate the prognostic significance of BRCA1 PM in TNBC patients receiving standard chemotherapy.
Subjects with stage I-III TNBC treated with chemotherapy were identified and their formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumor specimens retrieved. Genomic DNA was isolated and subjected to methylation-specific PCR (MSPCR).
DNA was isolated from primary tumor of 39 subjects. BRCA1 PM was detected in 30% of patients. Presence of BRCA1 PM was associated with lower BRCA1 transcript levels, suggesting epigenetic BRCA1 silencing. All patients received chemotherapy (anthracycline:90%, taxane:69%). At a median follow-up of 64 months, 46% of patients have recurred and 36% have died. On univariate analysis, African-American race, node positivity, stage, and BRCA1 PM were associated with worse RFS and OS. Five year OS was 36% for patients with BRCA1 PM vs. 77% for patients without BRCA1 PM (p=0.004). On multivariable analysis, BRCA1 PM was associated with significantly worse RFS and OS.
We show that BRCA1 PM is common in TNBC and has the potential to identify a significant fraction of TNBC patients who have suboptimal outcomes with standard chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC4147783  PMID: 25177489
Triple negative breast cancer; BRCA1 promoter methylation; prognosis; chemosensitivity; biomarker
7.  Reduction in Ki-67 in Benign Breast Tissue of High Risk Women with the Lignan Secoisolariciresinol Diglycoside (SDG) 
Preclinical and correlative studies suggest reduced breast cancer with higher lignan intake or blood levels. We conducted a pilot study of modulation of risk biomarkers for breast cancer in premenopausal women after administration of the plant lignan secoisolariciresinol given as the diglycoside (SDG). Eligibility criteria included regular menstrual cycles, no oral contraceptives, a greater than 3-fold increase in 5 year risk, and baseline Ki-67 ≥2% in areas of hyperplasia in breast tissue sampled by random periareolar fine needle aspiration (RPFNA) during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. SDG 50 mg daily was given for 12 months, followed by repeat RPFNA. The primary endpoint was change in Ki-67. Secondary endpoints included change in cytomorphology, mammographic breast density, serum bioavailable estradiol, and testosterone IGF-I and IGFBP-3, and plasma lignan levels. Forty-five of 49 eligible women completed the study with excellent compliance (median = 96%) and few serious side effects (4% grade 3). Median plasma enterolactone increased ~ 9-fold, and total lignans 16 fold. Thirty-six (80%) of the 45 evaluable subjects demonstrated a decrease in Ki-67, from a median of 4% (range 2–16.8 %) to 2% (range 0–15.2%) (p<0.001 by Wilcoxon signed rank test). A decrease from baseline in the proportion of women with atypical cytology (p=0.035) was also observed. Based on favorable risk biomarker modulation and lack of adverse events, we are initiating a randomized trial of SDG vs. placebo in premenopausal women.
PMCID: PMC2955777  PMID: 20724470
8.  1 Estradiol Targets T Cell Signaling Pathways in Human Systemic Lupus 
Clinical immunology (Orlando, Fla.)  2009;133(3):428-436.
The major risk factor for developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is being female. The present study utilized gene profiles of activated T cells from females with SLE and healthy controls to identify signaling pathways uniquely regulated by estradiol that could contribute to SLE pathogenesis. Selected downstream pathway genes (+/− estradiol) were measured by real time polymerase chain amplification. Estradiol uniquely upregulated six pathways in SLE T cells that control T cell function including interferon-α signaling. Measurement of interferon-α pathway target gene expression revealed significant differences (p = 0.043) in DRIP150 (+/− estradiol) in SLE T cell samples while IFIT1 expression was bimodal and correlated moderately (r = 0.55) with disease activity. The results indicate that estradiol alters signaling pathways in activated SLE T cells that control T cell function. Differential expression of transcriptional coactivators could influence estrogen-dependent gene regulation in T cell signaling and contribute to SLE onset and disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2783703  PMID: 19793680
SLE; estradiol; interferon-α; T cell signaling; microarray
9.  Tamoxifen prevents premalignant changes of breast but not ovarian cancer in rats at high risk for both diseases 
Women at increased risk for breast cancer are at increased risk for ovarian cancer as well, reflecting common risk factors and intertwined etiology of the two diseases. We previously developed a rat model of elevated breast and ovarian cancer risk, allowing evaluation of dual target cancer prevention strategies. Tamoxifen, a FDA-approved breast cancer chemoprevention drug, has been shown to promote ovarian cysts in premenopausal women; however, the effect of tamoxifen on ovarian cancer risk is still controversial. In the current experiment, Fischer 344 rats (n=8 per treatment group) received tamoxifen (TAM) or vehicle (CONT) in factorial combination with combined breast and ovarian carcinogen (17β-estradiol and 7, 12 dimethylbenza[α]anthracene, respectively). Mammary and ovarian morphologies were normal in CONT and TAM groups. Carcinogen (CARC) treatment induced mammary dysplasia with elevated cell proliferation and reduced estrogen receptor alpha expression and promoted preneoplastic changes in the ovary. In CARC+TAM-treated group, tamoxifen reduced preneoplastic changes and proliferation rate in the mammary gland but not in the ovary compared to rats treated with carcinogen alone. Putative stem cell markers [Oct-4 and aldehyde dehydrogenase-1 (ALDH-1)] were also elevated in the mammary tissue by carcinogen and this expansion of the stem cell population was not reversed by tamoxifen. Our study suggests that tamoxifen prevents early progression to mammary cancer but has no effect on ovarian cancer progression in this rat model.
PMCID: PMC2748942  PMID: 19139004
breast cancer; ovarian cancer; cancer prevention; preclinical model; tamoxifen
10.  Mammographic density does not correlate with Ki-67 expression or cytomorphology in benign breast cells obtained by random periareolar fine needle aspiration from women at high risk for breast cancer 
Breast Cancer Research  2007;9(3):R35.
Ki-67 expression is a possible risk biomarker and is currently being used as a response biomarker in chemoprevention trials. Mammographic breast density is a risk biomarker and is also being used as a response biomarker. We previously showed that Ki-67 expression is higher in specimens of benign breast cells exhibiting cytologic atypia that are obtained by random periareolar fine needle aspiration (RPFNA). It is not known whether there is a correlation between mammographic density and Ki-67 expression in benign breast ductal cells obtained by RPFNA.
Included in the study were 344 women at high risk for developing breast cancer (based on personal or family history), seen at The University of Kansas Medical Center high-risk breast clinic, who underwent RPFNA with cytomorphology and Ki-67 assessment plus a mammogram. Mammographic breast density was assessed using the Cumulus program. Categorical variables were analyzed by χ2 test, and continuous variables were analyzed by nonparametric test and linear regression.
Forty-seven per cent of women were premenopausal and 53% were postmenopausal. The median age was 48 years, median 5-year Gail Risk was 2.2%, and median Ki-67 was 1.9%. The median mammographic breast density was 37%. Ki-67 expression increased with cytologic abnormality (atypia versus no atypia; P ≤ 0.001) and younger age (≤50 years versus >50 years; P ≤ 0.001). Mammographic density was higher in premenopausal women (P ≤ 0.001), those with lower body mass index (P < 0.001), and those with lower 5-year Gail risk (P = 0.001). Mammographic density exhibited no correlation with Ki-67 expression or cytomorphology.
Given the lack of correlation of mammographic breast density with either cytomorphology or Ki-67 expression in RPFNA specimens, mammographic density and Ki-67 expression should be considered as potentially complementary response biomarkers in breast cancer chemoprevention trials.
PMCID: PMC1929099  PMID: 17537236
11.  The Search for New Hypoxic Cell Radiosensitizers 
A number of newly synthesized compounds whose chemical structure suggested possible or remotely possible ability to radiosensitize hypoxic mammalian cells were studied in an in-vitro system. Those compounds that were not excluded because of insolubility or extreme cytotoxicity were tested for radiosensitizing ability. The correlation between chemical structure and radiosensitizing ability will be used for the rational design of additional compounds with a high probability of being effective hypoxic cell radiosensitizers. It is hoped that this will contribute to attempts to improve the cure rate of patients with malignant tumors through the use of radiation therapy and hypoxic cell radiosensitizers.
PMCID: PMC2552501  PMID: 7401185

Results 1-11 (11)