Breast cancer prevention, nutrition focus of research symposium

September 23, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Breast cancer prevention and nutrition will be the focus during an Oct. 18 and 19 symposium at Purdue University.

"There are a number of programs, conferences and organizations that focus on breast cancer, but what makes this initiative different is that we are focusing on breast cancer prevention and nutrition," said Sophie Lelièvre (pronounced Le-LEE-YEA-vre), associate professor of basic medical sciences in the School of Veterinary Medicine and leader of the Breast Cancer Discovery Group at the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. "That may sound surprising, considering that patients are often told to eat right and eat healthy, but the reality is that there are many unknowns about how nutrition relates to breast cancer prevention and recurrence.

"What we are specifically looking at is how the disease and prevention are related to women's heritage and environment. Better understanding how these factors affect the disease's gene expression, also known as epigenetics, will put us closer to understanding why breast cancer incidence is rising at different rates throughout the world. Of particular concern is the rapid rise of incidence in low- and middle-income countries where aggressive forms of the disease are seen in young women."

The Symposium on Breast Cancer Prevention: Nutrition, Communication and Public Policy will bring together experts in biology, epidemiology, medicine, nutrition, communication, education and public policy from North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The event, chaired by Lelièvre and Connie Weaver, distinguished professor and head of the Department of Foods and Nutrition, is organized by the Purdue International Breast Cancer and Nutrition group.

There are two presentations free and open to the public:

* Oct. 18, 5:30 p.m. Stewart Center, Room 206. Dr. George M. Sledge, Ballve Lantero Professor of Oncology at the Indiana University School of Medicine and co-director of the Breast Cancer Program at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, will present "Current Status of Breast Cancer Treatment." Sledge specializes in the study and treatment of breast cancer, and he directed the first large, nationwide study on the use of paclitaxel to treat advanced breast cancer. His recent research focuses on novel biologic treatments.

* Oct. 19, 5:30 p.m. Stewart Center, Room 302. Connie Rufenbarger, director of project development for The Catherine Peachey Fund Inc. in Warsaw, Ind., will present "The Role of Breast Cancer Research Advocacy in Breast Cancer Prevention." Rufenbarger also is on the executive committee for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Tissue Bank at the IU Simon Cancer Center. The mission of the tissue bank is to provide specimens that will enable the study of normal mammary development and to provide normal breast tissue controls for breast cancer research.

Researchers participating in the symposium also will launch a 20-year, multi-country interdisciplinary study on how nutrition affects breast cancer in partnership with the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The project will have a number of milestones at several-year intervals and will integrate worldwide diversity in breast cancer incidence, dietary patterns and cultural background. The international team plans on collecting data from the United States, France, Japan, Ghana, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Canada and other countries that will join in the future. Members of the team will include researchers from nutrition, basic medical sciences, statistics, cancer epidemiology, communication, public policy, economics, health law, anthropology and medicine. Detailed information about the project is available at

"We will be looking at the cellular mechanisms involved in breast cancer development as well as linkages between breast cancer and diet at the population level," said Jakob Jensen, a Purdue assistant professor of health communication and conference presenter who is part of the International Breast Cancer and Nutrition Project. "This international collaboration and long-term aspect of the study will provide information that we've never had access to before."

The event is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and NIH Office of Research in Women's Health, as well as 19 other Purdue programs, offices and centers. A complete sponsor list is available at

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,

Sources: Sophie Lelièvre, 765-496-7793,  
Connie Weaver, 765-494-8237, 
Jakob Jensen, 765-494-7781,