Funded by Hooters of America, LLC
Age is the greatest risk factor for breast cancer. About 80% of all breast cancers occur in women older than age 50. Aging is associated with tissue changes as well as changes in the genes that are expressed in breast cells. However, the age-related molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie these changes and contribute to breast cancer development remains poorly understood. Our lab studies a mechanism by which genes are read to produce different proteins, called RNA splicing. RNA splicing can generate proteins with different functions from a single gene. We previously discovered that this process is altered in human tumors and leads to breast cancer. Additionally, changes in RNA splicing also occur in healthy aging. Here we will test the hypothesis that (1) changes in RNA splicing occur in the mammary tissue with age, and (2) that these splicing changes prime the breast for tumor formation. Our research findings may provide biomarkers of breast cancer risk before the tumor develops. Our ultimate goal is to identify novel strategies for early breast cancer detection, early intervention, and prevention.