Breast Cancer

Preventing and catching cancer early

Nawal Kassem, MD, is focusing on identifying people who have a genetic predisposition to cancer through a process called cascade testing.

When a person is identified to have a genetic mutation that predisposes them to cancer, Kassem wants to figure out if family members have also inherited the same mutation and need cancer prevention screenings. Kassem’s research has shown that rates of cascade testing—testing family members who may carry a gene—are generally low but are significantly lower among Black patients.

Kassem is working to identify the barriers for Black family members to undergo this crucial genetic testing. Given that 5% to 10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, Kassem hopes this research can help more people receive preventative care and catch breast cancer early.

IU researchers are also studying the role of exercise in preventing breast cancer. Scientists know that exercise is associated with a reduced risk for breast cancer, but the mechanism behind that is unclear.

In addition to her work on metastatic breast cancer, Ballinger is leading an exercise intervention study in breast cancer prevention. People who are at high risk for breast cancer will participate in six-month exercise intervention. In partnership with the Komen Tissue Bank, participants will donate breast tissue before and after the exercise program. The goal is to use these samples to evaluate changes in the tissue microenvironment.

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