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Researchers to Study Role of Immunologic Factors in Breast Cancer among Women of African Ancestry

Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Chair of Cancer Prevention and Control and Kelvin Lee, MD, Chair of Immunology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI), have received a grant for $165,000 from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to study the possible link between adaptation to endemic infectious disease and the possibility of being diagnosed with aggressive breast cancers among women of African ancestry.

African-American women are more likely than European-Americans or Asians to be diagnosed with aggressive breast cancers and to have poor survival rates. It is hypothesized that robust immune/inflammatory responses evolved over many generations among Africans in response to endemic infectious diseases such as malaria.

As a result, over the years the immune system in these women has been programmed to best protect the woman throughout her reproductive years. After that, a hyper-inflammatory immune system may result in the development of more aggressive breast cancers among African-American women.

The study will use data and samples from the Women’s Circle of Health Study, an on-going case-control study of breast cancer in African-American and European-American women. It is hoped that results of this study would open new areas for investigation regarding the basic biology of the relationship between immune factors and aggressive breast cancer.

“To date, we really do not know why African-American women are more likely to get these aggressive breast cancers. Results from this study could lead to targeted prevention or treatment strategies, reducing mortality from this disease,” said Dr. Ambrosone.

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. RPCI, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York.

The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit RPCI’s website at, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email

Doug Sitler | Newswise Science News
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