Fall 2015

Moving Toward the Source

A coalition of researchers explores environmental factors in the rise of breast cancer

Photo: Kelvin Ma

When Ellie Anbinder found out she had breast cancer, she wanted to know why. Gail Sonenshein and Charlotte Kuperwasser also want to understand why Anbinder, and thousands of women like her with no family history of the disease, develop breast cancer.

Thanks to a grant from Anbinder’s foundation, Sonenshein and Kuperwasser, a professor and associate professor, respectively, in the Department of Developmental, Molecular and Chemical Biology at Tufts School of Medicine, are working with a team to determine why the rate of breast cancer in the United States has risen so dramatically.

“You can ascribe 10 to 15 percent of cases of breast cancer to genetic causes,” says Sonenshein. When it comes to the other 85 to 90 percent, “there clearly seem to be environmental factors at work.”

After her diagnosis and treatment, Anbinder co-founded the Art beCAUSE Breast Cancer Foundation to fund research on environmental factors. With a grant from the nonprofit foundation, a group of researchers at Tufts and Boston University looks at how certain chemicals in the environment play a role.

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