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2014 Grants - Cui
Can Aromatase Inhibitors Increase the Risk of Alzheimer’s in Breast Cancer Patients?
Jie Cui, Ph.D.
The Roskamp Institute, Inc.
2014 New Investigator Research Grant
The hormone estrogen performs different roles in different parts of the body. In the brain, estrogen has been shown to play a role in protecting nerve cells and helping to maintain healthy brain function. Brain estrogen is produced, in part, by a protein called aromatase. The aromatase protein has become a key target in the fight against estrogen-related breast cancers. Drugs that inhibit aromatase are commonly prescribed for women who develop such cancers. However, recent evidence suggests that aromatase inhibitors (AIs) may also be associated with cognitive decline in some breast cancer patients due to estrogen reduction.
In earlier research, Jie Cui, Ph.D., and colleagues have found evidence that aromatase inhibitors (AIs) may be linked to cognitive loss and an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease in women. For their current grant, the researchers will assess how various doses of AIs affect female mice engineered to develop Alzheimer’s-like brain changes. These animals will be tested for cognition and for brain levels of beta-amyloid, a protein fragment that accumulates into amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. The team will also use mouse nerve cells grown in a laboratory dish to test whether aromatase inhibitors affect the function of synapses (the tiny spaces through which nerve cells send and receive chemical messages and communicate with other nerve cells). Loss of synaptic function is thought to contribute to learning and memory problems in Alzheimer’s disease.
The results of this work could shed new light on how estrogen may affect brain structure and function. These studies could also provide new information on the molecular mechanisms that may underlie cognitive decline associated with the use of AIs.