This is a news feature in the new issue of Science profiling a female Nigerian doctor who is investigating the racial disparity in the aggressiveness of breast tumors.
Probing the Roots of Race and Cancer
Science 2 February 2007 Vol. 315. no. 5812, pp. 592 - 594
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS--African-American women are more likely to develop aggressive breast tumors than are Caucasians. Funmi Olopade is trying to understand why.
Some of the more interesting excerpts:
"She recently reported that even when black women with breast cancer receive the same treatment as whites in clinical trials, their chance of developing incurable metastases is about 20% greater."
"Her efforts intensified after tumor samples she collected 3 years ago from women in Nigeria and Senegal revealed an even higher rate of aggressive disease than in African-American women--suggesting that genetics may partly explain the difference."
"Many of the young black women in her clinic who had not inherited BRCA mutations, Olopade noticed, nonetheless seemed to develop a form of breast cancer that closely resembled that seen in BRCA1 carriers. Known as estrogen-receptor-negative (ER-negative) breast cancer, these tumors are not fueled by estrogen and do not respond to drugs such as tamoxifen and raloxifene that cut off their supply of the hormone. They also tend to metastasize and spread more quickly than ER-positive tumors."... "Nearly 40% of breast cancer cases among African-American women are ER-negative, compared with 23% of cases among whites."
and this last interesting snippet:
"In the Chicago health-disparity center to which Olopade devotes a slice of her time, another environmental driver may be emerging. Co-Director McClintock has shown that when rats are socially isolated early in life, increasing stress and vigilance and prompting immune system changes, they develop breast tumors 40% earlier and four times more often than do animals housed in groups. The isolated rats also display larger, more aggressive tumors."