Study finds that diabetes may hasten breast cancer tumor growth and stiffness

While diabetes is already associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer, a new Vanderbilt study published in Science Advances on November 18 indicates that presence of the disease may increase tumor growth and stiffness.

Researchers also found that diabetes treatments could reduce the tumor growth and stiffness to levels comparable with non-diabetic ones. The research was led by Cynthia Reinhart-King, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering and University Distinguished Professor. Vanderbilt Ph.D. student Wenjun Wang, a current member of Reinhart-King’s cellular mechanics lab, and Lauren Hapach, Ph.D.’21, a former lab member, were co-authors.

The study sheds light on a previously unknown biomechanical mechanism in which diabetic hyperglycemia acts on the extracellular matrix—a molecular network that promotes the growth of cells—to accelerate tumor growth and stiffness in breast cancer.

The research offers potential evidence for future therapies targeted to diabetic cancer patients.