New ASU research shows critical link between breast cancer, diabetes

New ASU research shows critical link between breast cancer, diabetes

New ASU research shows critical link between breast cancer, diabetes

A new study from Dr. Dorothy Sears from Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions reveals a critical link between breast cancer and diabetes in women.

The study, recently published in Nature Cell Biology, found “extracellular vesicles” that connect breast cancer to diabetes. Breast cancer cells will shed these vesicles that contain DNA, RNA, fats and protein, as well as molecules called microRNA-122.

These vesicles then travel to the pancreas and latch onto insulin-producing cells. The microRNA-122 can damage pancreatic cells’ ability to secrete insulin and regulate blood glucose levels, which can lead to higher glucose levels in breast cancer patients elevating the risk of diabetes.

“We know that people with cancer have an increased risk of diabetes – that’s been researched a lot,” Sears said.

Dr. Dorothy Sears, ASU College of Health Solutions

“But what hasn’t been researched was how does cancer increase the risk for diabetes? The key finding of this study was the mechanism by which the cancer is increasing the risk for diabetes and exactly how that happens,” she added.

Dr. Dorothy Sears is a professor of nutrition in ASU’s College of Health SolSears supervised the research team alongside other faculty from the University of California San Diego, City of Hope, Regulus Therapeutics and the University of California at Riverside.

“The good thing is that, in theory, with this kind of information, we can say ‘Aha, I see you microRNA-122, and I can block you,” Sears said. Several clinical trials are now underway looking at anti-microRNAs.

Dr. Dorothy Sears is a professor of nutrition in ASU’s College of Health Solutions. She is also the interim executive director of clinical and community translational science for CHS, supporting projects out of ASU’s Translational Research Center at 850 PBC on the Phoenix Bioscience Core.

Read more from ASU.