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Blood tests find high levels of inflammatory markers, low antioxidants in breast cancer patients

Samina Malik, MBBS, MPhil, and Arif Malik, PhD, University of Lahore, PakistanPhiladelphia (April 2, 2022)—A new study that analyzes levels of antioxidants and stress markers in the blood could lead to a new diagnostic tool for breast cancer. The research will be presented this week in Philadelphia at the American Physiological Society’s (APS) annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2022.

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that in 2020, there were nearly 8 million women living with breast cancer who had been diagnosed in the past five years. Identifying new diagnostic techniques is of major importance to efforts that aim to minimize the disease’s devastating effects. Researchers from the University of Lahore in Pakistan explored the role that inflammatory and stress markers may play in the development and progression of breast cancer.

The research team examined blood samples from premenopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer. When compared to age-matched controls without cancer, the breast cancer patients had significantly increased levels of inflammatory markers. Among the overexpressed markers were the pro-inflammatory protein interleukin-1, matrix metalloproteinase 9—an enzyme that is overexpressed in several diseases—and heat shock protein 27. This protein acts as an antioxidant that typically prevents or reduces cell death. However, in some disease states—such as cancer—heat shock protein 27 has been found to be both protective and destructive.

In addition, the breast cancer group had low levels of protective compounds such as vitamins A, C and D, catalase—an enzyme that protects cells from oxidative stress—and the antioxidants superoxide dismutase and glutathione.

“The breast cancer pathophysiology included an overbalance of oxidants or stress markers and an underbalance of antioxidants,” said Samina Malik, MBBS, MPhil, first author of the study. This proportion of pro- and anti-inflammatory components may play “a crucial role in the metastasis of breast cancer” and may be useful as a diagnostic marker for the disease, the researchers explained.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, or request the abstract, “Breast cancer revisited: stress-induced conspiracy, sensitivity and specificity,” please contact APS Media Relations or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our Newsroom.

About Experimental Biology 2022

Experimental Biologyis the annual meeting of five societies that explores the latest research in physiology, anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, investigative pathology and pharmacology. With a mission to share the newest scientific concepts and research findings shaping clinical advances, the meeting offers an unparalleled opportunity for global exchange among scientists who represent dozens of scientific areas, from laboratory to translational to clinical research.

About the American Physiological Society

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.

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