New research to investigate link between obesity and endometrial cancer

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Hunter researchers have been awarded a $600,000 grant to investigate the link between obesity and endometrial cancer to better identify and treat those at risk.

With around 60 per cent of endometrial cancers directly attributed to obesity, and the rates of obesity continuing to climb globally, endometrial cancer diagnoses are predicted to increase at a rapid rate.

“We’re expecting a 55 per cent increase in endometrial cancer rates by the year 2030,” explained lead researcher, Associate Professor Pradeep Tanwar.

“While survival across all cancers has improved dramatically over the years, the relative survival for all gynaecological cancers has only improved by seven per cent.

“On top of that, endometrial cancer research has lagged behind in progress relative to its clinical impact, so there’s a desperate need for more work in the field,” he said.

Funded by Cancer Australia, Associate Professor Tanwar and co-investigator Professor Hubert Hondermarck will lead a team exploring how a key protein might play a role in the development of endometrial cancer in overweight and obese patients.

“Currently, it is unclear how fat enhances the risk of endometrial cancer, however we’ve been able to produce evidence showing that a certain protein plays an important role activating the abnormal growth of cells in the endometrium,” Associate Professor Tanwar said.

The prevalence of obesity in women has more than doubled within the past four decades. As a result, in Australia, endometrial cancer has risen 22 per cent over the last 20 years, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women almost twice as likely to be diagnosed than non-Indigenous women.

“If we can identify this protein in overweight patients and its role in the development of endometrial cancer, it will provide a sound explanation for the high prevalence of endometrial cancer in obese women and develop a strong rationale for targeting this signalling process.

“We hope our work will contribute toward enhancing identification and preventative treatment for those at risk,” Associate Professor Tanwar said.

The grant is part of Cancer Australia’s Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme to support research that reduces the impact of cancer on the community and improves outcomes for people affected by cancer. Read more here.

Assoc Prof Tanwar (NHMRC Fellow), Prof Hondermarck, and Prof Lisa Wood are from the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute. Dr Ken Jaaback is the Director of Hunter New England Centre for Gynaecologic Cancers, John Hunter Hospital, Dr Nahar is a senior staff specialist in gynaecology at the John Hunter Hospital, Dr Lombard is a medical oncologist at the Calvary Mater Newcastle, Assoc Prof Scurry is a pathologist at the Hunter Area Pathology Service and University of Newcastle. Dr Oldmeadow is a senior statistician at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, Dr Kumar is an early career researcher at the University of Newcastle.

* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

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