Roma, Central Italy, January 2015. Once more, the multifactorial and heterogeneous nature of breast cancer fascinate researchers and is newly confirmed by the results of a study entitled “Anthropometric, metabolic and molecular determinants of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 expression in luminal b breast cancer”, published in December 2014 in the international journal Journal of Cell Physiology. The authors belong to a multidisciplinary Italian-American team led by Prof. Antonio Giordano, Director of the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine, Temple University, of Philadelphia, USA.

Breast cancer is a complex disease. Such complexity is faithfully mirrored by its clinical phenomenology and etiopathogenesis, namely, the way several risk factors may combine according to mechanisms characterized by flexibility and heterogeneity with alternative and innovative patterns changing from patient to patient” says Dr. Maddalena Barba, senior researcher at the Regina Elena Cancer Institute in Rome.

In this study, researchers have focused on a specific breast cancer subtype known as luminal B breast cancer, “Within this context, the expression of receptor known as human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is a widely recognized factor in treatment assignment and patients’ clinical management. This makes the evaluation of factors associated with HER2 expression particularly appealing to a research agenda” says Dr Maddalena Barba, researcher at the Regina Elena National Cancer Institute of Rome.

In this study, results from analyses including 154 women with luminal B breast cancer showed an inverse association between body mass index (BMI), an established link between obesity and insulin resistance, percentage of estrogen receptor (ER) expression and HER2 expression. This seemed to indicate that HER2 expression was significantly less common among luminal B breast cancer patients with the highest BMI and ER expression compared to their respective counterparts. Our resarch may contribute key “dowels” to the complex puzzle of luminal-B like breast cancer, particularly when considered jointly with a bunch of easily measurable parameters accounting for visceral adiposity (e.g. waist circumference). This approach might help better identify the host profile and disease characteristcs in view of an increasingly precise therapeutic approach. The identification of patient subcategories who may best benefit from the use of co-interventions specifically addressing insulin resistance in well defined breast cancer scenarios may ultimately turn into improved patients outcome” clarifies and concludes Prof. Antonio Giordano, senior scientist and scientific supervisor for the entire project.

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