Early Indicators of Breast Cancer Risk

The most commonly hypothesized model of breast cancer development posits an evolution through incremental steps of progressively increasing cellular abnormalities from normal epithelium through proliferative disease without atypia, atypical hyperplasia, ductal carcinoma in situ, and then invasive breast cancer.

This model is supported by epidemiologic studies that show a stepwise increase in relative risk (RR) of subsequent development of invasive breast cancer from proliferative disease without atypia (RR = 2) to atypical hyperplasia (RR = 4) to ductal carcinoma in situ (RR = 10).

To define the critical factors that influence whether a premalignant lesion will develop into invasive cancer, our lab is investigating an extensive cohort of patients with benign breast disease and a known subsequent cancer progression status. Transcriptional profiling and pathological observations are used to identify specific features most associated with progression to invasive cancer.

Along with animal and cell culture models, this information helps our lab develop novel approaches to target cancer-associated processes, with a goal of preventing breast cancer formation.