News | Women's Health | January 02, 2018

Study Finds Link Between Breast Cancer Treatments and Cellular Aging Markers

Research explores implications of long-term effects of chemotherapy and radiation

Study Finds Link Between Breast Cancer Treatments and Cellular Aging Markers

January 2, 2018 — A new study found women who had received chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to treat breast cancer were more likely to have high levels of DNA damage and reduced activity of an enzyme involved in chromosome healing, compared to women who underwent surgery alone. The results suggest that some breast cancer survivors may be more vulnerable to biological changes associated with accelerated aging because of their prior treatment.  

Advances in cancer screening and treatment have resulted in a growing number of cancer survivors in the United States. In many ways, cancer survivors appear "older" than people of similar age without a history of cancer. These "late effects" of cancer treatment are suspected to be the result of accelerated aging at the biological level.

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are highly effective treatments for cancer, but can also be toxic to healthy immune cells. Like other kinds of cells, immune cells accumulate damage to DNA as they age, which can impact their ability to divide in response to pathogens. When the cell stops dividing it enters a state referred to as cellular senescence. Senescent cells are a key player in the aging process. They often have shortened telomeres, a marker of the cells age, and low telomerase activity, an enzyme that protects chromosomal ends.

Little is known about whether prior exposure to these treatments is related to these "markers" of cellular aging that can appear years later in breast cancer survivors. The study examined whether past exposure to chemotherapy and/or radiation is related to these markers, including DNA damage, telomerase activity and telomere length in breast cancer survivors following treatment. In addition, the researchers analyzed DNA damage and lower telomerase activity in association with elevations in inflammatory activity, which is another known indicator of biological aging.

The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) team assessed 94 women, at three to six years after completion of primary treatment for breast cancer. The researchers discovered that those who had been exposed to chemotherapy and/or radiation showed elevated levels of DNA damage in blood cells, and lower telomerase enzymatic activity, compared to women who had previously received surgery alone. They found no differences in telomere length between the two groups of women, however. The results also showed longer-term increases in DNA damage and reductions in telomerase activity that coincide with higher levels of inflammatory activation.  

The potential for long-term impact of radiation and chemotherapy on the health and quality of life for cancer survivors is of increasing concern, especially as they are surviving much longer. In particular, these treatments may have a lasting effect on the rate of aging in various tissues in the body. These biological findings in breast cancer survivors who have received chemotherapy and/or radiation suggest that they may be at greater risk for accelerated aging than those who received surgery alone. Research focused on understanding the biology of treatment effects on aging pathways may lead to the development of future strategies to prevent these changes in cancer survivors.

The research is published online in NPJ Breast Cancer, a part of the Nature Partner Journals series.

For more information: www.nature.com/npjbcancer

Related Content

Lunit Unveiling AI-Based Mammography Solution at RSNA 2018
News | Mammography | November 15, 2018
Medical artificial intelligence (AI) software company Lunit will be returning to the 104th Radiological Society of...
Breast Density Advocate Nancy M. Cappello Passes Away

Nancy Cappello. Image courtesy of AreYouDense.org.

News | Breast Density | November 15, 2018 | Jeff Zagoudis, Associate Editor
Imaging Technology News extends its condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Nancy M. Cappello, Ph.D., who...
Life Image and Mendel.ai Bringing Artificial Intelligence to Clinical Trial Development
News | Artificial Intelligence | November 15, 2018
Life Image and Mendel.ai announced a new strategic partnership that will facilitate the adoption and enhancement of...
Artificial Intelligence Predicts Alzheimer's Years Before Diagnosis
News | Neuro Imaging | November 14, 2018
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology improves the ability of brain imaging to predict Alzheimer’s disease, according...
Merit Medical Completes Acquisition of Cianna Medical
News | Women's Health | November 14, 2018
Disposable device manufacturer Merit Medical Systems Inc. announced the closing of a definitive merger agreement to...
The MOZART Supra Specimen Tomosynthesis System is the latest generation of 3-D imaging for breast cancer surgery.
News | Breast Imaging | November 08, 2018
KUBTEC announced the launch of a new innovation in the treatment of breast cancer. The Mozart Supra Specimen...
Videos | ASTRO | November 08, 2018
ITN Editor Dave Fornell took a tour of some of the most innovative technologies on display on the expo floor at the 
The Fujifilm FCT Embrace CT System displayed for the first time at ASTRO 2018.
360 Photos | 360 View Photos | November 07, 2018
Fujifilm's first FDA-cleared compu...
This is the Siemens Magnetom Sola RT edition 1.5T MRI system optimized for radiation therapy displayed for the first time since gaining FDA clearance in 2018. It was displayed at the American Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ASTRO) 2018 annual meeting. Read more about this system at ASTRO 2018. #ASTRO18 #ASTRO2018
360 Photos | 360 View Photos | November 07, 2018
This is the Siemens Magnetom Sola RT edition 1.5T MRI system optimized for...