Update on Fetting Fund Supported Research

Curcumin Spice: Saraswati Sukumar, Ph.D., is working on the creation of a novel, simple and safe design for long-term oral administration of the spice curcumin for prevention of breast cancer in women. Curcumin is used in Indian medicine as a treatment for cancer and dates back hundreds of years. Intense studies in the last 25 years have resulted in the demonstration of its cancer-preventive activity in laboratory animals. Tumor regression was shown to occur through suppression of inflammation and other key mechanisms in many types of cancer models, including breast cancer.   

New Test: Ben Park, M.D., Ph.D., and his team are developing a test to detect breast cancer at its earliest stages in women who carry BRCA1 or 2 gene mutations. Women with BRCA1 or 2 gene mutations often undergo active surveillance and/or prophylactic surgeries to mitigate this risk and improve outcomes. However, for active surveillance, screening by mammography and/or breast MRI scan can lead to false-negative and false-positive results. Park’s blood test measures cancer mutations in blood plasma and may serve as an additional screening tool for BRCA carriers undergoing active surveillance. 

Honokiol: The root and stem bark of the magnolia species have been used for centuries in traditional Asian medicine to treat anxiety, nervous disorders, fever, gastrointestinal symptoms and stroke. The therapeutic benefits of the magnolia species have been attributed to honokiol, a natural phenolic compound isolated from an extract of seed cones from magnolia tree bark. The laboratory of Dipali Sharma, Ph.D., recently showed that honokiol prevents growth, invasion and migration of breast cancer cells, and that honokiol treatment significantly reduces tumor growth in laboratory models of breast cancer. She is examining the chemopreventive potential of honokiol using mouse models of spontaneous tumor development. 

Prediction Tool: Kala Visvanathan, M.B.B.S., and her team are investigating whether DNA changes, such as methylation (when healthy gene expression changes to a disease pattern), and mutations in normal breast tissue are indicators of future breast cancer risk. The research team is comparing DNA alterations in tumor tissue with unaffected breast tissue from within the same breast and the opposite breast. This information will help determine whether assessing methylation in breast tissue is a promising tool to predict cancer risk and therefore warrants further study.

Learn more about the John Fetting Fund for Breast Cancer Prevention.