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Wayne State researcher studies gene that contributes to breast cancer disparity in Caucasian and Asian women

January 27, 2009

DETROIT- New research from Wayne State University's School of Medicine has identified a gene that may contribute to the racial disparity in breast cancer incidence among Asian and Caucasian women, providing a novel target for diagnoses and treatment for both races.

Avraham Raz

A study by Avraham Raz, Ph.D., professor of pathology and radiation oncology and collaborators Vitaly Balan, Ph.D., research associate and Pratima Nangia-Makker, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology in WSU's School of Medicine and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, was published in the Dec. 15, 2008 edition of Cancer Research, a scientific journal supported by the American Association for Cancer Research, Inc. In addition, an image from the study - the graph of allelic variations in Asian and Caucasian women superimposed over an image of galectin-3 expression in cancer patients - was featured on the cover of the issue.

The study provides evidence that an allelic variation in the galectin-3 gene may influence a woman's risk for developing breast cancer and partially explain why Caucasian women have a higher occurrence of breast cancer than Asian women.

Despite a tremendous amount of variations in cancer incidence and mortality between races, Raz's study is the first to identify a genetic contributor for those differences. "It is well-established that Asian women have a lower propensity for breast cancer than Caucasian women," Raz said. "Up until this point, it has largely been attributed to differences in lifestyle, diet and local environment. Our study shows for the first time that in addition to these factors, inheritable genes such as galectin-3 also contribute to differences in breast cancer between races. This opens a new vista of research in the understanding of the disease." See attached for additional information.