Dr. Electra Paskett (43017), associate director for population sciences at the OSUCCC and holder of the Marion N. Rowley Designated Chair in Cancer Research at Ohio State, will join 62 other scientists nationwide in receiving $11.2 million from the BCRF at the organization's seventh annual awards luncheon in New York City on Oct. 10.
Paskett says her grant of $250,000 will support one of the first studies at the OSUCCC that will be conducted under the auspices of the new Breast Cancer Prevention Through Nutrition Program. The study will compare a low-fat with a low-sugar diet to see if either is able to reduce a woman's chances of developing breast cancer.
"We know that women recognize the relationship between nutrition and health, but they are being bombarded with misleading information that comes from the promotion of fads and quick fix-it schemes rather than findings of scientific fact," says Paskett. "I am grateful to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation for its support in this new initiative."
Last year, Paskett received a similar award to study soy and tomatoes as dietary factors that may inhibit breast cancer. The new study will enroll 140 pre-menopausal women who will be randomized to either a low fat or a low sugar diet for one year. Participants in both arms will be encouraged to exercise and will be monitored for changes in a number of key biomarkers that may be linked to the development of breast cancer.
Some studies suggest a link between a high-fat diet and breast cancer. Laboratory tests have shown that animals placed on high-fat diets develop breast tumors at a higher rate than those on low-fat diets. "But we don't really know exactly what factors are at work in that relationship," says Paskett. "That's one of the things we want to find out."
Paskett says women on high fat diets who have mutations in two genes called GSTM1 and GSTT1 may not be able to detoxify certain metabolic byproducts called reactive free radicals. Some scientists believe that when free radicals build up in the body, they can lead to cancer. Paskett says changes in the metabolism of GSTM1 and GSTT1 - as well as other chemicals in the women's blood and urine - may turn out to be good biomarkers to help them understand the impact of nutrition as a preventive approach.
Generally, there has been less attention to sugar as a possible carcinogen or promoter of cancer cell growth, but Paskett says there is evidence suggesting it may be problematic. She says some studies show that sugar provides cancer cells with more energy, or may contribute to a phenomenon known as the IGF cascade. IGF is an acronym for insulin growth factor, a hormone that stimulates the growth of cancerous cells. Paskett says data indicating a positive relationship between IGF-1 levels and breast cancer risk appears to be strongest in pre-menopausal women. She says obesity alone may be a risk factor for developing breast cancer, adding that restricting calories, weight loss and exercise can all help decrease the level of circulating IGF.
Potential study participants need to be at least 30 years old, pre-menopausal, consuming a diet of at least 30 percent fat and have a body mass index between 25-34. They must also be deemed at high risk for developing breast cancer, measured by having a first-degree relative with breast cancer diagnosed pre-menopausally, or two or more first-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer at any age. Women in both arms of the study will be given ways to increase their exercise activity to 30 minutes five times a week, and will be given regular feedback on their adherence to diet and exercise and their relative risk of developing breast cancer.
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, founded by Evelyn H. Lauder, is dedicated solely to clinical and genetic research in breast cancer. It has awarded more than $40 million to scientists nationwide since its inception in 1993.
A jpeg of Dr. Paskett is available at: http://www.