studies racial disparity in breast cancer
BY ANGELA STEWART
scientist at the forefront of research on a suspected breast cancer
gene that appears to be more active in the tumors of black women said
yesterday she is now working on developing a blood test that could
prove key in the gene's early detection.
Berg, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at
the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington,
D.C., updated her research on the gene -- called BP1--during a lecture
in New Brunswick titled "Unraveling Racial Differences in Breast
gene can be found through a blood test, Berg said, the result could be
quicker diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
is turned on early. It's not a late event," said Berg, whose talk was
co-sponsored by the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Institute
for the Elimination of Health Disparities, which is based at the
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.
in a small study were injected with cells containing the BP1 gene, all
of them developed tumors in a period of just five weeks, Bergen said.
may be associated with an increase in the number of tumors and larger
tumors in mice," she said. "Our goal is to find out how to knock out
BP1. It's a good target."
incidence of breast cancer is higher in white women, it kills black
women at higher rates. Although socio-economic factors may play a role
in the disparity, Berg said, it does not explain the whole picture.
her research, Berg and her colleagues have found that BP1 is found in
89 percent of the tumors of black women, compared to 57 percent of the
tumors of white women.
BP1 is present in 80 percent of all breast tumors, compared to just 11
percent of normal breast tissue, Berg said.
212,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast
cancer; about 40,000 will die from it.
part of her research focuses on identifying drugs that can suppress the
believe BP1 is associated with the more aggressive tumors," said Berg.
chairs the research committee at George Washington. She has received
funding support from sources including the National Cancer Institute
and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Brown, who as head of the UMDNJ institute invited Berg to speak,
emphasized the significance of Berg's work. "We need to expose our
faculty and other members of our community to cutting- edge research as
it relates to health disparities," said Brown.
Toppmeyer, who directs the breast cancer program at the Cancer
Institute of New Jersey, said Berg's work will have applications far
beyond the BP1 gene.
quite provocative. This is helping us to understand what are the
legitimate risks that predispose individuals to development of the
disease," said Toppmeyer, who teaches at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson
Angela Stewart writes about health care.