Researchers investigate the relationship between the treatment of diabetes mellitus and the growth of tumors in women with breast cancer.
The increase in numbers of diabetes mellitus and breast cancer cases in recent years has made it important to determine whether there is a link between these two conditions. Diabetes mellitus occurs when the body is unable to produce the insulin required to carry out its functions, or when the body is unable to properly use the insulin made in the pancreas. Some studies have shown that insulin can potentially cause tumor growth through different pathways in the body.
A Dutch study recently published in BMC Cancer assessed the presence and possible effects of insulin-related proteins in breast tumors. Approximately 300 women with breast cancer were recruited from a hospital database. Women with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes and without diabetes were included in this cross-sectional study. Any patients that were diagnosed with diabetes mellitus less than one year before the breast cancer diagnosis were excluded from the study.
A breast pathologist analyzed five proteins (p-ER, EGFR, p-ERK 1/2, p-mTOR, and IGF1R) expressed in the tumors of the breast tissue. The researchers evaluated these results to determine whether a relationship exists between the expression of these proteins, diabetes mellitus, treatment with insulin, and treatment with non-insulin antidiabetic medications such as metformin.
The results did not show a significant difference in the expression of any of the five proteins in women with and without diabetes. Women who were on insulin regimens for diabetes were found to have more of IGF1R and p-mTOR proteins in the breast tumor. The study results indicate a possible association between the use of insulin in women with diabetes and the development of certain proteins in breast tumors. This important topic needs further research to determine the relationship between diabetes mellitus and breast cancer, thereby helping clinicians choose appropriate treatment plans for women with these disease states.
Written by Anuolu Bank-Oni, Pharm.D, CDE, BCGP
Reference: Bronsveld HK et al. The association of diabetes mellitus and insulin treatment with expression of insulin-related proteins in breast tumors. BMC Cancer (2018) 18:224