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Sandra Z. Haslam,

Sandra Haslam received  her Ph.D. in Endocrinology from the University of California at Berkeley. She joined the faculty at MSU in 1980 and is a professor in the Department of Physiology in the College of Human Medicine and a principal Investigator of the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program. She is currently also a member of the U.S. Interagency Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Coordinating Committee charged with advising NIH and Congress on future research directions to elucidate the role of the environment in the etiology of breast cancer.

 Over the past 33 years starting with her postdoctoral training she has  studied progesterone action in the normal mammary gland in animal models (mouse and rat), both in vivo and in vitro, in the postmenopausal breast ( human breast and mouse model), and in the development of breast cancer (hormone-dependent rat mammary cancer). Recent research activities have additionally focused on breast development during puberty as a unique period of sensitivity to environmental exposures that may increase breast cancer risk in adulthood. She has published extensively on these subjects These research projects have been supported by NIH-funded R01 grants, by an NIEHS/NCI co-sponsored Center Grant and DOD Breast Cancer Research Program Idea Awards. 

Richard Schwartz,

Dr. Richard Schwartz received his BS in Biological Sciences from the University of California at Irvine, and his PhD in Biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied antibody gene expression. He continued his training with postdoctoral studies in the molecular biology of RNA processing at the University of California, San Diego and at the California Institute of Technology, and then postdoctoral studies at the University of California at Los Angeles on the genesis of B-cell lymphomas. He came to Michigan State University in 1986 and is currently a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the College of Natural Science. At Michigan State University, his research activities have been in the areas of B cell oncogenesis, regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and, most recently, in the involvement of inflammatory processes in mammary gland development and tumorigenesis.

The Hypothesis:

Human and animal studies have implicated a high fat diet with an increased incidence of breast cancer.  Human and animal studies of breast cancer also show that inflammatory processes contribute to tumor proliferation and metastasis. We have found that a high fat diet in the absence of obesity increases the incidence of breast cancer in animal models, as well as enhances inflammatory processes within the mammary gland. The fact that this occurs in the absence of obesity has profound implications for human health, as many more people eat a high fat diet than are obese. We hypothesize that a high fat diet increases both the incidence and the rate at which breast cancer develops in animals through enhancement of inflammatory processes.

The Study:

We will test this hypothesis during normal pubertal mammary gland development, and during chemical and genetic models of carcinogenesis in mice fed control versus a high fat diet. We will also test several experimental intervention strategies to overcome the negative effects of diet on inflammation, and on mammary cancer development.

Partners in the Project:

  • Community Advocates from Michigan Breast Cancer Coalition
  • Michigan State University Department of Communication

The Rationale:

Understanding the regulation of inflammatory processes in normal pubertal mammary gland development, as well as in carcinogenesis, may provide relevant information about how other environmental factors, such as diet, may increase susceptibility to mammary cancer. This knowledge will hopefully lead to successful strategies for breast cancer prevention.


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