Research Interests and goals

The goals of our research are :

  • To identify ways in which breastmilk can be used to accurately predict breast cancer risk.
  • To use breastmilk to identify ways to reduce breast cancer risk through dietary changes.
  • To use breastmilk to identify new treatment strategies for breast cancer (reverse methylation).
  • To use breastmilk to understand the relationship between environmental exposures and breast cancer.
  • To use breastmilk to understand differences in the development of breast cancer among different races.

Our current research interests are:

  • The use of breastmilk to predict breast cancer risk
  • The relationship between environmental exposures and breast cancer
  • Racial disparities in breast cancer risk
  • Diet and breast cancer risk
  • Reducing breast cancer risk through diet intervention

Two of our recent studies (full list of publications) :

Using Breast Milk to Screen for Breast Cancer and Assess Breast Cancer Risk

The purpose of this study is to determine if breast cancer and breast cancer risk can be accurately assessed from a breast milk sample. Currently, there is no accurate way to give women information about their personal risk of developing breast cancer. We will use the cells naturally present in breast milk to examine changes in DNA that occur in association with benign and cancerous breast lesions. Learning about the genetic changes associated with both breast cancer and non-cancerous breast lesions will help us develop a way to provide women with information about their breast cancer risk. Using breast milk to screen for breast cancer will reduce unnecessary biopsies among nursing women. This research is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.

Breast Milk and Breast Milk Cells: Biomarkers of Exposure, Effect and Genetic Susceptibility to Breast Cancer

Breast milk is an ideal human fluid for studying the relationship between exposure to pollutants and breast cancer risk because it contains lipophilic compounds implicated in the etiology of breast cancer and exfoliated breast epithelial cells. We have ongoing studies in which we are analyzing the relationship between pollutants in milk and levels of DNA damage, changes in gene expression and promoter hypermethylation in the exfoliated breast epithelial cells. This research is made possible by a grant from the Avon Foundation.