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Bradford scientist awarded £90k to investigate link between diabetes and breast cancer

Published: 4 January 2018

A leading Bradford scientist has been awarded a grant worth more than £90,000 by research charity Breast Cancer Now to carry out cutting-edge research to uncover why breast cancer is more likely to spread in those with type two diabetes, than in those without the disease.

When breast cancer spreads – known as secondary (or metastatic) breast cancer – it becomes incurable, and almost all of the 11,500 women that die as a result of breast cancer each year in the UK will have seen their cancer spread. More than 1,620 women in West Yorkshire are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and over 350 women in the region die from the disease each year.1

Research has found that those with type two diabetes are around 20% more likely to develop breast cancer than those who are not diabetic. Furthermore, type two diabetes has also been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer spreading around the body, however the underlying molecular mechanisms connecting the two continue to elude scientists.

Previous studies have shown that platelets – the components in the blood that cause clotting – may encourage breast cancer cells to grow more aggressively. Platelets shed small fragments that carry ‘messenger molecules’ – called miRNA – which may send growth signals to breast cancer cells that encourage them to progress to secondary breast cancer. In people with type two diabetes, the blood contains higher levels of these platelet fragments, and scientists now hope to uncover whether it is the higher levels of miRNA that encourage breast cancer to spread in type two diabetics.

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