BUSM Awarded $3M NIH Grant to Study Link between Obesity and Breast Cancer in African-American Women


Contact: Gina Orlando, (617) 638-8490, gina.orlando@bmc.org

(Boston) – Gerald V. Denis, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Julie Palmer, ScD, professor of epidemiology at the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, have been awarded a five-year, $3M grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to study the implications of obesity on breast cancer in African-American women.

“Breast cancer mortality is higher in African-American women in the U.S. when compared to white women and access to care does not fully account for the difference,” said Palmer. “Our hope is that a better understanding of the interplay of obesity with cancer will lead to better outcomes for women with breast cancer.”

Previous research has shown that inflammatory adipose tissue is associated with metabolic status. However, about 28 percent of obese persons remain metabolically healthy. In metabolically-abnormal obese (MAO) individuals who express this inflammation, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer are more prevalent. Until now, MAO and metabolically healthy obese (MHO) individuals have been grouped together. This research will explore the unique immunometabolic features of the MHO subgroup to distinguish important mechanisms that affect cancer risk.


“The American Cancer Society has estimated that the number of American women who will be diagnosed annually with breast cancer may approach double the current 220,000. This increase is attributable solely to the metabolic and immunological complications of insulin-resistant obesity,” said Denis.


Using basic laboratory and epidemiological population data to identify the relationships between co-morbid obesity and cancer and pharmacological solutions, the long term goal of this research is to understand and use the relationships among obesity, inflammation and breast cancer outcomes to reduce the effects of obesity on cancer incidence and mortality.


Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U01CA182898. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.