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1.  Effects of Metformin, Buformin, and Phenformin on the Post Initiation Stage of Chemically-Induced Mammary Carcinogenesis in the Rat 
Metformin is a widely prescribed drug for the treatment of type-2 diabetes. Although epidemiological data have provided a strong rationale for investigating the potential of this biguanide for use in cancer prevention and control, uncertainty exists whether metformin should be expected to have an impact in non-diabetic patients. Furthermore, little attention has been given to the possibility that other biguanides may have anticancer activity. In this study, the effects of clinically relevant doses of metformin (9.3mmol/kg diet), buformin (7.6 mmol/kg diet), and phenformin (5.0 mmol/kg diet) were compared to rats fed control diet (AIN93-G) during the post initiation stage of 1-methyl-1-nitrosourea-induced (50 mg/kg body weight) mammary carcinogenesis (n = 30/group). Plasma, liver, skeletal muscle, visceral fat, mammary gland, and mammary carcinoma concentrations of the biguanides were determined. In comparison to the control group, buformin decreased cancer incidence, multiplicity, and burden; whereas, metformin and phenformin had no statistically significant effect on the carcinogenic process relative to the control group. Buformin did not alter fasting plasma glucose or insulin. Within mammary carcinomas, evidence was obtained that buformin treatment perturbed signaling pathways related to energy sensing. However, further investigation is needed to determine the relative contributions of host systemic and cell autonomous mechanisms to the anticancer activity of biguanides such as buformin.
PMCID: PMC4452421  PMID: 25804611
Biguanides; mammary carcinogenesis; metformin; buformin; phenformin
2.  Premenopausal Obesity and Breast Cancer Growth Rates in a Rodent Model 
Nutrients  2016;8(4):214.
Obese premenopausal women with breast cancer have poorer prognosis for long term survival, in part because their tumors are larger at the time of diagnosis than are found in normal weight women. Whether larger tumor mass is due to obesity-related barriers to detection or to effects on tumor biology is not known. This study used polygenic models for obesity and breast cancer to deconstruct this question with the objective of determining whether cell autonomous mechanisms contribute to the link between obesity and breast cancer burden. Assessment of the growth rates of 259 chemically induced mammary carcinomas from rats sensitive to dietary induced obesity (DS) and of 143 carcinomas from rats resistant (DR) to dietary induced obesity revealed that tumors in DS rats grew 1.8 times faster than in DR rats. This difference may be attributed to alterations in cell cycle machinery that permit more rapid tumor cell accumulation. DS tumors displayed protein expression patterns consistent with reduced G1/S checkpoint inhibition and a higher threshold of factors required for execution of the apoptotic cell death pathway. These mechanistic insights identify regulatory targets for life style modifications or pharmacological interventions designed to disrupt the linkage between obesity and tumor burden.
PMCID: PMC4848683  PMID: 27077880
apoptosis; breast cancer; cell proliferation; obesity; premenopausal; tumor growth
3.  Defining the Role of Histone Deacetylases in the Inhibition of Mammary Carcinogenesis by Dietary Energy Restriction (DER): Effects of Suberoylanilide Hydroxamic Acid (SAHA) and DER in a Rat Model 
Dietary energy restriction (DER) inhibits experimentally-induced mammary cancer, an effect accompanied by elevated levels of silent information regulator 2 (SIRT1), a class III histone deacetylase (HDAC). However, the effect of DER on targets of other classes of HDACs has not been reported, a highly relevant issue given evidence that HDAC induction favors the development of cancer and tumor growth. Experiments were conducted to determine if suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA), a histone deacetylase inhibitor with broad activity, would affect the anti-cancer activity of DER. Female Sprague Dawley rats (n=30/group) were injected with 1-methyl-1-nitrosourea (50 mg/kg) at 21 days of age and 7 days thereafter were randomized to groups fed: 1) control diet (AIN-93G), 2) 0.1% SAHA (w/w), 3) 40% DER, or 4) 0.1% SAHA+40% DER. An additional group was fed 0.1% SAHA+40%DER for 5 weeks and released to control diet for 3 weeks. DER significantly reduced mammary cancer incidence, multiplicity, and cancer burden and prolonged cancer latency (P < 0.01). Cancer inhibition was maintained in SAHA+DER despite evidence that histone (H2ALys9, H2BLys5, and H4Lys5/8/12/16, but not H3Lys9 P < 0.001) and non-histone protein deacetylation (p53Lys373 and p53Lys382 P < 0.001), induced by DER, were reversed by SAHA. This indicates that DER’s inhibition of cancer is not dependent on HDAC induction. After releasing rats from DER+SAHA, cancer multiplicity remained lower than control (P < 0.05), consistent with apoptosis mediated cell deletion. These findings support further investigation of the hypothesis that HDAC induction by DER blunts its anti-carcinogenic impact.
PMCID: PMC4636215  PMID: 23365133
apoptosis; dietary energy restriction; histone deacetylase; mammary carcinogenesis; suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid
4.  Impact of Weight Loss on Plasma Leptin and Adiponectin in Overweight-to-Obese Post Menopausal Breast Cancer Survivors 
Nutrients  2015;7(7):5156-5176.
Women who are obese at the time of breast cancer diagnosis have higher overall mortality than normal weight women and some evidence implicates adiponectin and leptin as contributing to prognostic disadvantage. While intentional weight loss is thought to improve prognosis, its impact on these adipokines is unclear. This study compared the pattern of change in plasma leptin and adiponectin in overweight-to-obese post-menopausal breast cancer survivors during weight loss. Given the controversies about what dietary pattern is most appropriate for breast cancer control and regulation of adipokine metabolism, the effect of a low fat versus a low carbohydrate pattern was evaluated using a non-randomized, controlled study design. Anthropometric data and fasted plasma were obtained monthly during the six-month weight loss intervention. While leptin was associated with fat mass, adiponectin was not, and the lack of correlation between leptin and adiponectin concentrations throughout weight loss implies independent mechanisms of regulation. The temporal pattern of change in leptin but not adiponectin was affected by magnitude of weight loss. Dietary pattern was without effect on either adipokine. Mechanisms not directly related to dietary pattern, weight loss, or fat mass appear to play dominant roles in the regulation of circulating levels of these adipokines.
PMCID: PMC4516992  PMID: 26132992
adiponectin; body composition; breast cancer survivors; dietary pattern; leptin; weight loss
5.  Weight Loss Interventions for Breast Cancer Survivors: Impact of Dietary Pattern 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0127366.
Body weight management is not emphasized in clinical practice guidelines for breast cancer survivors, reflecting the lack of evidence that weight loss improves prognosis. Even if this situation changes, the optimal design for weight loss interventions is unclear. We conducted a 6-month non-randomized, controlled weight loss intervention in 249 post-menopausal breast cancer survivors. This paper reports effects on two secondary endpoints, change in body weight and composition. Participants were predominantly non-Hispanic whites (89%) with a mean age of 54.9 ± 9.2 years, a mean BMI of 29.0 ± 2.6 kg/m: 2 and an average of 43 ± 5% body fat. Two dietary interventions, low fat or low carbohydrate, were investigated and consisted of a 42 day cycle of menus and recipes. Weight loss counseling and anthropometric assessment were provided at monthly clinic visits. One hundred ninety-two women completed the trial (77% retention). In comparison to the nonintervention control, both intervention arms achieved significant decreases in body weight (12.5%), body fat (27.5%), waist circumference (9.5%), and hip circumference (7.8%) (all p < 0.001) with minimal effects on lean mass (1.3% decrease). Median time to 5 and 10% weight loss was 2 (95% confidence interval = 1 to 3) and 4 (95% confidence interval = 3 to 5) months, respectively, and 23% of participants experienced ≥ 15% weight loss. Loss of body weight and fat mass was rapid and substantial irrespective of dietary approach when a structured program was provided with monthly anthropometric assessment and weight loss counseling.
Trial Registration NCT01315483
PMCID: PMC4443974  PMID: 26010254
6.  Excess weight gain accelerates 1-methyl-1-nitrosourea-induced mammary carcinogenesis in a rat model of premenopausal breast cancer 
In contrast to the null effects generally reported, high-risk premenopausal women (Gail score ≥1.66) enrolled in the Breast Cancer Prevention P-1 Trial were recently reported to be at increased risk for breast cancer when overweight (HR, 1.59) or obese (HR, 1.70). To investigate this clinical observation in a preclinical setting, ovary-intact female rats were intraperitoneally injected with 50 mg/kg 1-methyl-1-nitrosourea at 21 days of age to simulate premenopausal women with increased risk. Two commercially available strains of Sprague Dawley rat (Taconic Farms) were used which are dietary resistant (DR) or dietary susceptible (DS) to excess weight gain when fed a purified diet containing 32% kcal from fat, similar to levels consumed by the typical American woman. DS rats were approximately 15.5% heavier than DR rats at study termination and plasma leptin indicated a marked difference in adiposity. DS rats had higher incidence (26% increase), multiplicity (2.5-fold increase), and burden (5.4-fold increase) of mammary carcinomas with a concomitant reduction in cancer latency (16% earlier detection) compared to DR rats (P <.001 for all analyses), and displayed a higher proportion of hormone receptor negative tumors compared to DR rats (OR=1.78, 95% CI 0.83–3.81). Circulating levels of several breast cancer risk factors including leptin, adiponectin:leptin ratio, insulin, IGF-1, IGF-1:IGFBP3 ratio, and calculated insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) were negatively impacted in DS rats (P <.05 for all analyses). These findings support further investigation of the effects of excess weight in high-risk premenopausal women and demonstrate a useful preclinical model for rapid evaluation of mechanistic hypotheses.
PMCID: PMC3955111  PMID: 24441676
obesity; premenopausal; breast cancer; preclinical
7.  Effects of Energy Restriction and Wheel Running on Mammary Carcinogenesis and Host Systemic Factors in a Rat Model 
Limiting energy availability via diet or physical activity has health benefits; however, it is not known if these interventions have similar effects on the development of cancer. Two questions were addressed: 1) does limiting energy availability by increasing physical activity have the same effect on mammary carcinogenesis as limiting caloric intake, and 2) are host systemic factors, implicated as risk biomarkers for breast cancer, similarly affected by these interventions? Female Sprague Dawley rats were injected with 50 mg 1-methyl-1-nitrosourea/kg body weight at 21 days of age and randomized to one of five groups (30 rats/gp): 1) sham running wheel control; 2) restricted fed to 85% of the sham-control, 3 and 4) voluntary running in a motorized activity wheel (37 m/min) to a maximum of 3500 m/day or 1750 m/day, and 5) sedentary ad libitum fed control with no access to a running wheel. The three energetics interventions inhibited the carcinogenic response, reducing cancer incidence (P=0.01), cancer multiplicity (P<0.001), and cancer burden (P<0.001), while prolonging cancer latency (P=0.004) although differences among energetics interventions were not significant. Of the plasma biomarkers associated with the development of cancer, the energetics interventions reduced bioavailable insulin-like growth factor-1(IGF-1), insulin, interleukin-6, serum amyloid protein, tumor necrosis factor-α, and leptin and increased IGF binding protein 3 (IGFBP3) and adiponection. Plasma fasting glucose, C-reactive protein, estradiol, and progesterone were unaffected. The plasma biomarkers of greatest value in predicting the carcinogenic response were: adiponectin > IGF-1/IGFBP-3 > IGFBP-3 > leptin > IGF-1.
PMCID: PMC3294132  PMID: 22246620
physical activity; dietary energy restriction; mammary carcinogenesis; adipokines; insulin like growth factors; chronic inflammation
8.  Effect of dietary patterns differing in carbohydrate and fat content on blood lipid and glucose profiles based on weight-loss success of breast-cancer survivors 
Healthy body weight is an important factor for prevention of breast cancer recurrence. Yet, weight loss and weight gain are not currently included in clinical-practice guidelines for posttreatment of breast cancer. The work reported addresses one of the questions that must be considered in recommending weight loss to patients: does it matter what diet plan is used, a question of particular importance because breast cancer treatment can increase risk for cardiovascular disease.
Women who completed treatment for breast cancer were enrolled in a nonrandomized, controlled study investigating effects of weight loss achieved by using two dietary patterns at the extremes of macronutrient composition, although both diet arms were equivalent in protein: high fat, low carbohydrate versus low fat, high carbohydrate. A nonintervention group served as the control arm; women were assigned to intervention arms based on dietary preferences. During the 6-month weight-loss program, which was menu and recipe defined, participants had monthly clinical visits at which anthropometric data were collected and fasting blood was obtained for safety monitoring for plasma lipid profiles and fasting glucose. Results from 142 participants are reported.
Adverse effects on fasting blood lipids or glucose were not observed in either dietary arm. A decrease in fasting glucose was observed with progressive weight loss and was greater in participants who lost more weight, but the effect was not statistically significant, even though it was observed across both diet groups (P = 0.21). Beneficial effects of weight loss on cholesterol (4.7%; P = 0.001), triglycerides (21.8%; P = 0.01), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (5.8%; P = 0.06) were observed in both groups. For cholesterol (P = 0.07) and LDL cholesterol (P = 0.13), greater reduction trends were seen on the low-fat diet pattern; whereas, for triglycerides (P = 0.01) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (P = 0.08), a decrease or increase, respectively, was greater on the low-carbohydrate diet pattern.
Because an individual's dietary preferences can affect dietary adherence and weight-loss success, the lack of evidence of a negative effect of dietary pattern on biomarkers associated with cardiovascular risk is an important consideration in the development of breast cancer practice guidelines for physicians who recommend that their patients lose weight. Whether dietary pattern affects biomarkers that predict long-term survival is a primary question in this ongoing clinical trial.
PMCID: PMC3496116  PMID: 22225711
9.  Metformin as an energy restriction mimetic agent for breast cancer prevention 
This study examined whether metformin administration inhibited chemically induced mammary carcinogenesis in rats. In cancer prevention, metformin may act (1) indirectly through reducing systemic risk factors; or (2) directly through AMPK-mediated signaling. To begin to delineate clinically relevant mechanisms for breast cancer prevention, metformin was also studied along with dietary energy restriction.
Materials and Methods:
Mammary cancer was induced in female Sprague--Dawley rats (50 mg/kg MNU, i.p.). Metformin was fed alone (AIN93G + 0.05 to 1.0% w/w metformin) or combined with 40% dietary energy restriction. Plasma analytes (e.g., insulin, glucose, IGF-1) and protein expression (e.g., AMPK, mTOR, Akt) in mammary carcinomas and liver were evaluated. Additional studies included (1) aldehyde dehydrogenase flow cytometry, to gauge potential for cancer-initiated cells in mammary carcinomas to respond to metformin; (2) cell culture, to understand dose response (0.02--20 mM) of different cancer cell line molecular subtypes to metformin; and (3) analysis of a rat mammary epithelial cell microarray database, to examine expression of genes related to metformin pharmacokinetics (e.g., organic cation transporters) and pharmacodynamics (e.g., complex I of electron transport).
While a dosing regimen of 1.0%/0.25% metformin-reduced palpable mammary carcinoma incidence, multiplicity, and tumor burden and prolonged latency, lower doses of metformin failed to inhibit carcinogenesis despite effects on plasma insulin. Human breast cancer cell growth inhibition in response to metformin was only observed at high concentrations. Poor in vivo and in vitro response to metformin may be the result of pharmacokinetic (OCT-1 expression was low in rat mammary cells; OCT-3 was downregulated in mammary carcinoma) and pharmacodynamic (complex I transcripts were higher in mammary epithelial cells from carcinomas versus uninvolved gland) effects. In combination with dietary energy restriction, metformin offered protection against new tumor occurrence following release from combined treatment. Flow cytometry indicated the presence of cancer-initiated cells in mammary carcinomas.
As a single agent, metformin possessed limited cancer inhibitory activity. However, metformin may be an effective component of multiagent interventions that target cancer-initiated cells. There is a clear need to identify the conditions under which metformin is likely to benefit prevention and control of breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3142764  PMID: 21799661
AMP-activated protein kinase; insulin; mammalian target of rapamycin; mammary carcinogenesis; metformin
10.  Effect of a low fat versus a low carbohydrate weight loss dietary intervention on biomarkers of long term survival in breast cancer patients ('CHOICE'): study protocol 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:287.
Weight loss in overweight or obese breast cancer patients is associated with an improved prognosis for long term survival. However, it is not clear whether the macronutrient composition of the chosen weight loss dietary plan imparts further prognostic benefit. A study protocol is presented for a dietary intervention to investigate the effects of weight loss dietary patterns that vary markedly in fat and carbohydrate contents on biomarkers of exposure to metabolic processes that may promote tumorigenesis and that are predictive of long term survival. The study will also determine how much weight must be lost for biomarkers to change in a favorable direction.
Approximately 370 overweight or obese postmenopausal breast cancer survivors (body mass index: 25.0 to 34.9 kg/m2) will be accrued and assigned to one of two weight loss intervention programs or a non-intervention control group. The dietary intervention is implemented in a free living population to test the two extremes of popular weight loss dietary patterns: a high carbohydrate, low fat diet versus a low carbohydrate, high fat diet. The effects of these dietary patterns on biomarkers for glucose homeostasis, chronic inflammation, cellular oxidation, and steroid sex hormone metabolism will be measured. Participants will attend 3 screening and dietary education visits, and 7 monthly one-on-one dietary counseling and clinical data measurement visits in addition to 5 group visits in the intervention arms. Participants in the control arm will attend two clinical data measurement visits at baseline and 6 months. The primary outcome is high sensitivity C-reactive protein. Secondary outcomes include interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-α, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF), IGF binding protein-3, 8-isoprostane-F2-alpha, estrone, estradiol, progesterone, sex hormone binding globulin, adiponectin, and leptin.
While clinical data indicate that excess weight for height is associated with poor prognosis for long term survival, little attention is paid to weight control in the clinical management of breast cancer. This study will provide information that can be used to answer important patient questions about the effects of dietary pattern and magnitude of weight loss on long term survival following breast cancer treatment.
Clinical Trial Registration
PMCID: PMC3150342  PMID: 21733177
biomarkers; dietary patterns; low fat; low carbohydrate; weight loss; breast cancer; long term survival
11.  Quantitative Assessment of Mammary Gland Density in Rodents Using Digital Image Analysis 
Rodent models have been used extensively to study mammary gland development and for studies of toxicology and carcinogenesis. Mammary gland gross morphology can visualized via the excision of intact mammary gland chains following fixation and staining with carmine using a tissue preparation referred to as a whole mount. Methods are described for the automated collection of digital images from an entire mammary gland whole mount and for the interrogation of digital data using a "masking" technique available with Image-Pro® plus image analysis software (Mediacybernetics. Silver Spring, MD).
Parallel to mammographic analysis in humans, measurements of rodent mammary gland density were derived from area-based or volume-based algorithms and included: total circumscribed mammary fat pad mass, mammary epithelial mass, and epithelium-free fat pad mass. These values permitted estimation of absolute mass of mammary epithelium as well as breast density. The biological plausibility of these measurements was evaluated in mammary whole mounts from rats and mice. During mammary gland development, absolute epithelial mass increased linearly without significant changes in mammographic density. Treatment of rodents with tamoxifen, 9-cis-retinoic acid, or ovariectomy, and occurrence of diet induced obesity decreased both absolute epithelial mass and mammographic density. The area and volumetric methods gave similar results.
Digital image analysis can be used for screening agents for potential impact on reproductive toxicity or carcinogenesis as well as for mechanistic studies, particularly for cumulative effects on mammary epithelial mass as well as translational studies of mechanisms that explain the relationship between epithelial mass and cancer risk.
PMCID: PMC3129309  PMID: 21663682
12.  A Method for Serial Tissue Processing and Parallel Analysis of Aberrant Crypt Morphology, Mucin Depletion, and Beta-Catenin Staining in an Experimental Model of Colon Carcinogenesis 
Biological Procedures Online  2010;12:118-130.
The use of architectural and morphological characteristics of cells for establishing prognostic indicators by which individual pathologies are assigned grade and stage is a well-accepted practice. Advances in automated micro- and macroscopic image acquisition and digital image analysis have created new opportunities in the field of prognostic assessment; but, one area in experimental pathology, animal models for colon cancer, has not taken advantage of these opportunities. This situation is primarily due to the methods available to evaluate the colon of the rodent for the presence of premalignant and malignant pathologies. We report a new method for the excision and processing of the entire colon of the rat and illustrate how this procedure permitted the quantitative assessment of aberrant crypt foci (ACF), a premalignant colon pathology, for characteristics consistent with progression to malignancy. ACF were detected by methylene blue staining and subjected to quantitative morphometric analysis. Colons were then restained with high iron diamine–alcian blue for assessment of mucin depletion using an image overlay to associate morphometric data with mucin depletion. The subsequent evaluation of ACF for beta-catenin staining is also demonstrated. The methods described are particularly relevant to the screening of compounds for cancer chemopreventive activity.
PMCID: PMC3284111  PMID: 21406072
colon carcinogenesis; aberrant crypt foci; mucin depletion; beta-catenin; image analysis; morphometry
13.  Collection of Epithelial Cells from Rodent Mammary Gland Via Laser Capture Microdissection Yielding High-Quality RNA Suitable for Microarray Analysis 
Laser capture microdissection (LCM) enables collection of cell populations highly enriched for specific cell types that have the potential of yielding critical information about physiological and pathophysiological processes. One use of cells collected by LCM is for gene expression profiling. Samples intended for transcript analyses should be of the highest quality possible. RNA degradation is an ever-present concern in molecular biological assays, and LCM is no exception. This paper identifies issues related to preparation, collection, and processing in a lipid-rich tissue, rodent mammary gland, in which the epithelial to stromal cell ratio is low and the stromal component is primarily adipocytes, a situation that presents numerous technical challenges for high-quality RNA isolation. Our goal was to improve the procedure so that a greater probe set present call rate would be obtained when isolated RNA was evaluated using Affymetrix microarrays. The results showed that the quality of RNA isolated from epithelial cells of both mammary gland and mammary adenocarcinomas was high with a probe set present call rate of 65% and a high signal-to-noise ratio.
PMCID: PMC3055717  PMID: 21406068
Laser capture microdissection; Mammary epithelial cells; RNA quality
14.  Effect of Nonmotorized Wheel Running on Mammary Carcinogenesis: Circulating Biomarkers, Cellular Processes, and Molecular Mechanisms in Rats 
The objective of this experiment was to identify circulating growth factors, hormones, and cellular and molecular mechanisms that account for the effects of physical activity on mammary carcinogenesis. A total of 120 female Sprague-Dawley rats were injected with 1-methyl-1-nitrosourea (50 mg/kg) and 7 days thereafter were randomized to either a physically active or a sedentary control group. Individually housed rats were given free access to a nonmotorized, computer-controlled activity wheel and running behavior was reinforced by food reward. Rats self-determined their daily intensity and duration of running. Sedentary control rats received the same amount of food as the physically active rats to which they were paired. Physical activity reduced mammary cancer incidence (P = 0.015) and cancer multiplicity (P = 0.01). Physical activity induced changes in plasma insulin, insulin-like growth factor-I, and corticosterone, suggesting that mechanisms regulating glucose homeostasis were affected. Western blot analyses of mammary carcinomas revealed that proteins involved in cell proliferation were reduced (P < 0.001) and those involved in apoptosis via the mitochondrial pathway were elevated (P < 0.001) by physical activity. The hypothesis that these effects were mediated by activation of AMP-activated protein kinase, and down-regulation of protein kinase B, which collectively down-regulate the activity of the mammalian target of rapamycin, was evaluated. Evidence in support of this hypothesis was found in the Western blot analyses of mammary carcinomas, mammary gland, liver, and skeletal muscle. Collectively, these findings provide a rationale for additional studies of energy-sensing pathways in the elucidation of mechanisms that account for the inhibition of carcinogenesis by physical activity.
PMCID: PMC2667869  PMID: 18708381

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