U of Minnesota Researcher Receives Grant to Study Role of Lactation in Reducing Breast Cancer Risk

January 1, 1997
Oncology, ONCOLOGY Vol 11 No 1, Volume 11, Issue 1

University of Minnesota Cancer Center researcher David Kiang has received a 4-year, $509,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute to study how the molecular changes that occur during lactation can r from the National Cancer Institute to

University of Minnesota Cancer Center researcher David Kiang has receiveda 4-year, $509,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute to study howthe molecular changes that occur during lactation can r from the NationalCancer Institute to study how the molecular changes that occur during lactationcan rereduce a woman's risk for breast cancer. Research has shown thatlactation before age 20 reduces a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer40% to 50%, and Kiang hopes to develop a way to mimic lactation as a methodof reducing breast cancer risk.

Kiang, a professor of medical oncology and director of the university'sBreast Cancer Research Laboratory, said that breast cancer results frommultiple genetic defects that accumulate during a woman's lifetime, oftenbeginning during adolescent breast development.

"We know that during lactation there is a significant increasein communication among the mammary epithelial cells where breast cancerdevelops," he said. "The biological role of this increased communicationis to get all [the] epithelial cells working together to produce milk.We believe this increased communication between precancerous cells andtheir surrounding normal cells at an early age may lead to a reduced riskof cancer." Kiang likens the process to a troubled youth being exposedto positive role models and activities at early ages.

Kiang and his colleagues are currently unraveling the crucial segmentof the gene for the protein that controls the cellular communication channel.By developing a way to mimic lactation, the researchers hope to regulatethe protein and to increase intercellular communication, thereby reproducingthe beneficial effect of lactation without a woman actually going throughthe lactation process.

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