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Study Links Nicotine with Breast Cancer Growth and Spread

A study published in the journal Cancer Research suggests a possible role for nicotine in breast tumor development and metastases. The study, conducted by researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is among the first to explore the effects of nicotine on mammary cells.

"Although numerous studies indicate the role of nicotine exposure in tumor promotion, little is known about the effect of nicotine on breast tumor development, especially on the metastatic process of breast cancer," said lead author Chang Yan Chen, Ph.D., M.D., at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Through a series of in vitro tests Chen and her team of researchers determined that breast epithelial-like MCF10A cells and cancerous MCF7 cells both express several subunits of nAChR (nicotine receptor), that when bound, initiate a signaling process, potentially increasing cell growth and migration.

"The best known role of nAChR is in the nerve system," Chen said. "Although cells from various tissue origins express different subunits of nAChR, we know very little about the functions of nAChR in non-neuronal cells and tissues, in particular in mammary cells."

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