Nutrition Frontiers - Fall 2016

Volume 7, Issue 4

Date Posted: 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Dear Nutrition Enthusiast,

In this issue, we celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month by showcasing breast cancer research, including how DNA methylation influences the obesity-mortality association in breast cancer, the relationship of white adipose tissue to breast cancer risk, and the paternal diets’ effect on a daughters’ breast cancer risk. Learn about our spotlight investigator, Dr. Connie Rogers, and her research on the protective effect of exercise and weight maintenance on metastatic progression in breast cancer. Be informed of upcoming announcements and more.


DNA Methylation Influences the Obesity-Mortality Association in Breast Cancer

Image of women in pink blouses on a Breast Cancer Awareness WalkOverweight and obesity are associated with poor breast cancer (BC) survival.  Previous studies suggest that adiposity promotes tumor growth by excess estrogen production and that the obesity-mortality association may be facilitated by estrogen-mediated epigenetic silencing.  In a population-based cohort of predominately white, overweight and obese postmenopausal women with primary in situ or invasive BC, McCullough and colleagues looked at the relationship between body mass index (BMI), aberrant DNA methylation in breast tumor tissue and BC mortality. After a 15-year follow-up and evaluation of the promoter methylation of 13 breast cancer-related genes, BC-specific mortality was more than two-fold higher among obese (BMI > 30) women with promoter methylation in APC and TWISTI genes.   Additionally, obese women with the lowest levels of circulating global DNA methylation showed a near two-fold increase in all-cause mortality and a two and a half -fold increase in BC-specific mortality.  This study suggests poor BC prognosis associated with obesity may depend on aberrant DNA methylations and further studies are needed to better understand obesity’s influence on mechanistic pathways including DNA methylation processes.


The 2017 John Milner Nutrition and Cancer Prevention Research Practicum will take place March 20 to 24, 2017 and is now accepting applications –deadline is December 2, 2016. The Practicum will be held at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, the NIH Clinical Center and the USDA Beltsville Human Nutrition Center. This week-long educational offering provides specialized instruction about the role of diet and bioactive food components as modifiers of cancer incidence and tumor behavior. Click for details about the practicum, eligibility and details for applying to the practicum, and last year's agenda. There is no cost to attend, however, room, board and travel expenses are the responsibility of the participant. International applications are accepted.

You are invited to apply to a new mentored program: the Transdisciplinary (TD) Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Training Workshop. Funded by the NCI and led by Yale University's Dr. Melinda Irwin with a Senior Advisory Board and expert faculty from across the country, this program will build capacity in TD energetics and cancer research and is designed for post-doctoral and early career investigators. This 5-day, in residence Workshop will be held June 18-23, 2017 at Water's Edge Resort, Westbrook, CT. Costs will be covered (excluding ground transportation). Applications are due Jan 2, 2017. For more detail and to apply, visit

Upcoming Events

November 14-16, 2016
American Institute for Cancer Research Conference
Bethesda, MD

November 14, 2016
Cancer Care in Low-Resource Areas: Cancer Treatment, Palliative Care, and Survivorship Care: A Workshop
National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine
Washington, DC

December 5, 2016
NCI Stars in Nutrition and Cancer: Nutrient Sensing by the mTOR Pathway
Dr. David Sabatini
Bethesda, MD

December 8-10, 2016
Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition
Orlando, FL

February 13, 2017
Incorporating Weight Management and Physical Activity Throughout the Cancer Care Continuum: A Workshop
National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine
Washington, DC

February 18-21, 2017
Clinical Nutrition Week
Orlando, FL

February 22-24, 2017
Feeding Your Genome, Research Frontiers in Nutritional Sciences Conference 2017
The University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ

White Adipose Tissue Inflammation in Early-Stage Breast Cancer

Image of white adipose tissue inflammation in early-stage breast cancerChronic inflammation of visceral white adipose tissue (WAT) is associated with increased levels of proinflammatory mediators that promote the development of insulin resistance and diabetes and that confer worse prognosis in breast cancer patients. To clarify the relationship between breast WAT inflammation and the metabolic syndrome, Iyengar and colleagues examined two independent groups in a cross-sectional study (women undergoing mastectomy for breast cancer risk reduction or treatment) and a retrospective study (women who developed metastatic breast cancer). In these studies, breast WAT inflammation, defined by the presence of crown-like structures (composed of a dead or dying adipocyte surrounded by macrophages) of the breast, was associated with hyperinsulinemia, hyperglycemia, and hypertriglyceridemia, and elevated circulating C-reactive protein and IL6. Additionally, the presence of breast WAT inflammation at breast cancer diagnosis was associated with a worse breast cancer prognosis in women who developed metastatic disease. Breast WAT inflammation may be a stronger predictor of breast cancer outcomes than BMI and warrants further study.


Paternal Consumption of Animal or Plant-based High-Fat Diets Elicit Opposing Effects

Image of a father and daughter selecting lettuce at a farmers market.While the majority of nutrition and breast cancer risk research focuses on women’s diet, Fontelles and colleagues investigated paternal diets’ effect on a daughters’ breast cancer risk. Before and during puberty, male rats were fed a lard- or a corn oil-based high-fat (60% calories from fat) diet. Control animals were fed an AIN-93G diet containing soybean oil (16% calories from fat). Male rats were mated with female rats that were consuming a commercial diet and their female offspring were subjected to mammary carcinogenesis. Compared with female offspring of both control and corn oil-fed rats, offspring of the lard-fed male rats increased female offspring’s mammary cancer risk as indicated by increased elongation of the mammary epithelial tree, number of terminal end buds, and tumor incidence. However, in the female offspring of corn-oil fed fathers, mammary cancer risk was reduced, as indicated by decreased tumor growth compared with female offspring of both control diet and lard-fed fathers, and by longer tumor latency and decreased tumor multiplicity compared with female offspring of lard-fed fathers. Altered microRNA expression in fathers’ sperm and daughters’ mammary glands may underlie these effects, and other epigenetic changes may be involved.


Portrait of Connie Rogers, PhD, MPHConnie Rogers, PhD, MPH is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State University. She has an MPH and a PhD in Cell Biology & Physiology from the University of Pittsburgh. She did a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology & Medical Genetics, at the Ohio State University and an additional fellowship in Cancer Prevention at the NCI, where she also worked as a Research Fellow in the Laboratory of Tumor Immunology & Biology. Her current research examines the role of physical activity on metabolic and inflammatory mediators, anti-tumor immune mechanisms, and the downstream consequences of exercise-induced changes in immune processes on breast cancer incidence, development and metastasis.  Dr. Rogers has research funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Dairy Research Institute. She was awarded an R21 for her project, Mechanisms Underlying the Protective Effect of Exercise and Weight Maintenance on Metastatic Progression in Breast Cancer.

Read more about Connie Rodgers

Did You Know?

Sacred Soy Makes a Comeback

Image of boybeansSoybean, a sacred legume in Asia, has been cultivated for thousands of years in Japan and China and in particular consumed in Japan as edamame - young, fresh green soybeans harvested before the soybean seeds harden. Although the U.S. produces two-thirds of the soybeans in the world, the majority is not harvested as young soybeans, so most edamame is currently imported. 

Edamame provides all nine essential amino acids, is high in fiber, and is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  Edamame provides a variety of phytonutrients including isoflavones, saponins, and phenolic acid and is a good source of vitamins K, C, niacin, pyridoxine and folic acid, along with calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and iron.

Edamame is an appetizing, versatile and highly nutritious steamed snack. So pick up a bag of frozen edamame – in pods or shelled and try it as a finger food.  Simply steam and snack them in their pods with added chili flakes, black sesame seeds or soy sauce for flavor or add shelled edamame in a tuna sandwich, bean salad or guacamole.  Happy Munching!