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Effect of cigarette smoking on pulmonary metastasis

Institution: University of California, Davis
Investigator(s): Susan Murin, M.D.
Award Cycle: 2001 (Cycle 10) Grant #: 10IT-0264 Award: $36,236
Subject Area: Cancer
Award Type: Inno Dev & Exp Awards (IDEAS)

Initial Award Abstract
Smokers are more likely to die of breast cancer than are non-smokers, though they don’t get breast cancer any more often. This suggests that breast cancer may behave more aggressively among smokers. The reasons for this are not clear. Studies with animals have shown that a variety of things that injure the lung, like exposure to high concentrations of oxygen or to radiation, do increase metastasis to the lung. Because smoking also injures the lung, we think it may make breast cancer more likely to spread to the lung, but this has not been directly studied. Studies in populations of patients have suggested that smoking may encourage the spread of breast cancer to the lungs, but these types of studies can only indirectly look at the association between smoking and breast cancer behavior. We propose to examine the relationship between smoking and the spread of breast cancer to the lungs more directly, in an animal model of breast cancer.

We will study the effect of smoking on the spread of breast cancer to the lung by measuring the number and size of breast cancer deposits in the lung among mice exposed to cigarette smoke compared to mice not exposed to cigarette smoke. The experiments will be carried out using specialized smoke-exposure chambers that generate smoke concentrations that are comparable to those experienced by actively smoking adults. The breast cancer model in the mice is one that is very much like the human situation and that has previously been used to answer other questions about things that affect the spread of breast cancer, such as diet. We will compare both smoking and non-smoking animals, as well as a third group of animals that stops smoking after the breast cancer has grown for awhile. We include this third group because it allows us to model the situation of a woman quitting smoking at the time her breast cancer is diagnosed. If smoking does cause breast cancer to spread more easily, it will be important to see if this effect can be prevented by a woman quitting smoking when she finds out about her cancer.

Since breast cancer and smoking are both very common among women an effect of smoking on the behavior of breast cancer is potentially quite important. This is especially true if the adverse effect of smoking can be reversed by quitting smoking at the time of breast cancer diagnosis. Even if it can not be reversed, it is still important. Women smokers may be persuaded to quit smoking if they know it will make them more likely to die should they get breast cancer. Also, studies that compare women with breast cancer will need to take their smoking status into account if smoking really does make a difference in the way breast cancer behaves.