In battle, strategy is crucial. This is no different for the fight against breast cancer. As an organization, one of our most important responsibilities in this fight is to strategically allocate funds in the Greater Cincinnati area. While a great deal of research is conducted in the scope of the Susan G.
Komen national budget, we have found an invaluable opportunity to support research locally, through a grant at the University of Cincinnati. Glendon Zinser, Ph.D, leads a study investigating the role of vitamin D during breast development focusing on vitamin D signaling in adipose and epithelial tissues within the breast.
The object of any research is to prove or disprove the hypothesis, or to simply answer questions.
The hypothesis leading this research is: Breast adipose (fatty) tissue stores excess vitamin D in our bodies. That vitamin D can be activated and utilized by adjacent breast epithelial cells (cells lining the fatty cells), to regulate or slow the growth of both normal or transformed (cancerous)cells in the breast.
So, what does this mean?
The question at stake is: Can the appropriate levels of vitamin D slow breast cancer cell growth?
While this may appear to be a simple question, there are many functions, variables, and additional questions that must first be addressed.
To skim the surface, a few of those questions that Dr. Zinser and his staff have encountered are: Can the adipose (fatty) tissue activate the stored vitamin D to be utilized by the adjacent breast epithelial cells? How does vitamin D affect growth during hormonal pubertal development? Can adipose tissue alone regulate the growth of breast cancer cells, or is it dependent on the epithelial tissue for the body to benefit from vitamin D signaling in this way?
As research progresses, it has been discovered that the stored or inactive vitamin D can be activated by adipose tissue, and utilized by that fatty tissue to communicate with surrounding epithelial cells to slow cell growth. As Dr. Zinser and his team move forward, they are focusing on further communication abilities between the two types of tissues through controlled lab work with mice and cell culture models. They are additionally singling out adipose (fatty) tissue to test the single tissue’s ability to regulate cancer cells when exposed to vitamin D.
So, again, what does this mean?
This means that we’re moving forward, we are answering questions, we are discovering. But there is still work to be done. The human body is an intricately orchestrated instrument, and each tissue, each vitamin a crucial role. As Susan G. Komen for the Cure released nationally, in Komen Perspectives, the Institute of Medicine advised levels of vitamin D are only slightly elevated from previous recommended daily values, though not without question. This area of research is active and there is a demand for more work and deeper understanding.
A special thank you to Dr. Zinser and his team for their work in the fight against breast cancer.