News, Stories, Guidelines, Opinions, History

Biological Links Identified Between an Aggressive Breast Cancer Type and African Ancestry

Definitive biological links between African ancestry and disease processes that affect an aggressive cancer type called triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) have been identified by Weill Cornell Medicine investigators. Their analysis of TNBC tumors from a diverse patient population yielded a large set of genes whose expression differed in patients with African ancestry compared with patients with European ancestry. 

In the study, the scientists identify the expression of 613 genes associated with African ancestry and more than 2,000 genes associated with regional African ancestry in patients with TNBC. They also describe distinct patterns of immune responses in patients of African descent that may explain patterns of disease progression and outcomes. Together, these findings provide a foundation for future research into better treatment options for this cancer, which has the worst survival outcomes of all breast cancer types.

Many people are not aware of the geographic origins of their ancestors nor how much of their DNA was inherited from each source, known as genetic ancestry. “Previous studies of racial differences in TNBC analyzed data from African American patients and relied on self-reported race,” said senior author Dr. Melissa B. Davis (above), associate professor of cell and developmental biology research in surgery and director of health equity in the Englander Institute for Precision Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. “Our study is the first to determine each individual’s ancestry not only by African descent but also by specific regions within Africa.”

Scroll to Top