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expert reaction to unpublished conference abstract on chemical disruptors as risk factors for developing breast cancer

An abstract, presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference, reports on the relationship between common chemicals and the risk of developing certain types of breast cancer. 


Dr Mangesh Thorat, Deputy Director (Clinical) of the Cancer Prevention Trials Unit (KCL), Prevention Trials Unit, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), said:

“It is difficult to comment on limited data presented, and although preliminary data, authors are pursuing an interesting line of investigations.

“They identify a subset of nuclear receptors with altered expression in a particular type of breast cancer, and a further subset of these is associated with outcome (a prognostic biomarker). If validated in other studies, such biomarkers could be clinically useful. As a second line of investigation, they investigated which environmental exposures (common chemicals or drugs) could induce such alteration in expression. This would be useful in designing studies investigating causes of this type of cancer as well as developing new drugs.

“In summary, while this preliminary study does not at the moment have any clinical or public health implications, it identifies new avenues for research into causes of a type of breast cancer (triple negative breast cancer) and the biomarkers identified could be clinically useful in treatment of this cancer if appropriately validated in further studies.”


Prof Justin Stebbing, NIHR Research Professor of Cancer Medicine and Medical Oncology, Imperial College London, said:

“This research looks at triple negative breast cancer which is often very aggressive and can spread. There are lots of types of breast cancer but this one is defined by an absence of hormone receptors and another protein receptor called HER2 involved in it. However, other receptors affect the activity of DNA in all cancer cells and the researchers looked at so-called nuclear receptors which can bind to DNA. They looked at lots of these nuclear receptors that control DNA activity in over 150 breast cancer patient samples and found that in triple negative breast cancer, activity was changed in many of these. The changes in activity of 8 of these affected was associated with patient survival and this is an interesting way to look at the mechanisms underlying the aggressiveness of this type of breast cancer. Because these receptors can sometimes be activated by typical household products, it also means that in the future we can try to understand the effect of our environment by looking at this interaction. This study opens up new avenues for research. However, for now there is no link between household antiseptics or chemicals to breast cancer.”  


The abstract ‘Nuclear receptor profiling predicts chemical disruptors as risk factors for developing breast cancer’ by Freya Leif et al. was presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference on Tuesday 12 November.


Declared interests

Dr Mangesh Thorat: No conflicts.

None others received.

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