Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university, have explored the links between type 2 diabetes and breast cancer in a new paper published in Cancer Treatment Reviews, a leading scientific journal.
The researchers, led by Dr. Dietrich Büsselberg, carried out a comprehensive review of more than 200 existing diabetes and breast cancer studies, concluding that women with diabetes not only appear to have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, but also that diabetes supports breast cancer progression and can negatively impact the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapies.
The paper, entitled ‘Challenges and perspectives in the treatment of diabetes associated breast cancer’, also inferred that managing diabetes and treating cancer using a combination of anti-diabetic and anti-cancer drugs is likely to be more effective in the treatment of diabetes-associated cancers.
Dr. Büsselberg, professor of physiology and biophysics at WCM-Q, said: “A vast amount of research has been published about type 2 diabetes and breast cancer separately, but not so much in regard to the links between the two.
“Therefore, we decided to bring research into both diseases together in one review to improve our understanding of their interactions. We believe this review indicates there is indeed a direct link between diabetes and increased breast cancer risk, its progression, metastasis and relapse. Better understanding of this link will be extremely beneficial to patients, hopefully improving survival rates and the quality of life among affected individuals.”
The study explains that, as diabetes progresses, the body’s metabolism undergoes fundamental changes, with elevated levels of lipids (fats), insulin and glucose in the blood. These metabolic changes, in turn, disrupt and alter the normal functions of cells, causing damage to the DNA and the cell’s own structures, uncontrolled cell proliferation, and inhibition of a process called apoptosis, a normal form of programmed cell death that is a key part of cellular development and renewal. Inhibition of apoptosis in breast cancer cells serves to initiate or promote the growth of breast tumors.
It also discusses the effects of diabetes therapies on cancer risk, finding that drugs that target high blood glucose appear to induce cell death in cancer cells. While insulin therapy appears to increase breast cancer risk and support breast cancer progression, drugs that increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin, such as the widely prescribed metformin, have significant anti-cancer potential.
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