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NCI Cancer Center News

Fat cells in breast may connect social stress to triple-negative breast cancer

Local chemical signals released by fat cells in the mammary gland appear to provide a crucial link between exposure to unrelenting social stressors early in life, and the subsequent development of breast cancer, researchers from the University of Chicago report in an animal study published in the July 2013 issue of the journal Cancer Prevention Research. Some forms of stress exposure may be associated with an increased risk of certain types of aggressive breast cancer. But the mechanisms linking the biology of social stress to cancer have been hard to identify. To unravel that mechanism, the researchers looked for differences between mice raised in small groups and those that grow up in an isolated setting—an established model of chronic stress without social supports.

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Among the research institutions NCI funds across the United States, it currently designates 67 as Cancer Centers. Largely based in research universities, these facilities are home to many of the NCI-supported scientists who conduct a wide range of intense, laboratory research into cancer’s origins and development. The Cancer Centers Program also focuses on trans-disciplinary research, including population science and clinical research. The centers’ research results are often at the forefront of studies in the cancer field.