Researchers have identified a key feature that may help to explain why breast cancer is more common in women with type 2 diabetes.
The study was carried out in the laboratory using 3D culture assays, a process used to test how damage or indirect damage to the cells occur, such as a result of cancer. Mammary (breast) cells of mice and humans were each studied.
In the human tissue, the researchers found levels of glucose transport protein, GLUT3, was 400 times higher in malignant (cancer that’s likely to spread) cells than non-malignant cells. The role of GLUT3 is to allow glucose to pass through the membranes of cells. In cancer, this can be significant as uptake of glucose provides new cancerous cells with the energy to grow.
The research is significant in two ways as it may offer clues as to why breast cancer has been shown to be more common in women with type 2 diabetes, and it may also reveal clues as to how breast cancer may be treated in people with or without diabetes.
Research to date has shown significant promise for diabetes medications, notably including metformin, to have anti-cancer properties.
The research was carried out at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

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