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Increased Activity of Two Molecular Networks Could Explain Racial Disparity in Triple Negative Breast Cancer Deaths

Different activity in two molecular networks could help explain why triple negative breast cancers tend to be more aggressive in African American women compared with white American women, a new study from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center suggests.

Dipali Sharma, PhD (above), and her colleagues compared the behavior of triple negative breast cancer cell lines isolated from African American and White women. When grown in petri dishes, the cells from the Black women multiplied at a faster pace, were more invasive to surrounding tissue, were more likely to migrate, and had more “stem-like” cells capable of creating new tumors compared with the cells from White women. When placed into mice, the cells from the Black women created larger tumors faster and metastasized quicker.

Searching for the molecular mechanisms behind these differences, the researchers assessed gene activity in each of the cell lines and in tumor samples from the African American and White women. They found that two genes, known as GLI1 and Notch1, were more active in cells isolated from the Black women.

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