Research Shows Diet Changes Can Help Fight Breast Cancer

First Posted: May 28, 2014 09:05 AM EDT

Known to improve one's quality of life, calorie restriction is a form of dieting that researchers' determined might have other benefits, including the improvement of outcomes for women with breast cancer.

Researchers from Thomas Jefferson University conducted their experiment on laboratory mice and observed their production of microRNAs 17 and 20 that are both responsible for regulating genes in a cell. The decrease of these types of RNA actually increased the production of proteins involved in maintaining the extracellular matrix, which helps protect breast tissue.

Hormonal therapy is typically used to treat breast cancer patients in order to block tumor growth, and then steroids are administered to counteract the side effects of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, these treatments can negatively affect a patient's metabolism and cause them to gain weight, with women gaining an average of 10 pounds in their first year of treatment for breast cancer.

The researchers from Thomas Jefferson University treated the mice with radiation as well as calorie restriction and witnessed a decrease in both mIR 17 and mIR 20. This pair of treatments increased the production of proteins involved in maintaining the extracellular matrix. This was the outcome the researchers had hoped for.

"Calorie restriction promotes epigenetic changes in the breast tissue that keep the extracellular matrix strong," said Dr. Nicole Simone, the study's senior author, in this EurekAlert! news release.

In previous studies, Dr. Simone showed that calorie restriction played a role in boosting the tumor-killing effects of radiation therapy. The TJU study, "The metastatic potential of triple-negative breast cancer is decreased via caloric restriction-mediated reduction of the miR-17~92 cluster," sought to determine and analyze the molecular pathways involved in the process. The results were published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

The study proved successful in mice, and now Dr. Simone aims to conduct a human trial and is currently recruiting people to take part in the Calorie Restriction for Oncology Research (CaReFOR) trial.

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