• Press Release

Mount Sinai Researcher Awarded NIH Grant to Study Association Between Triglycerides and Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Work aims to improve outcomes for women with this deadly form of cancer

  • New York, NY
  • (September 13, 2022)

Patients with triple negative breast cancer often have high levels of triglycerides, yet the implications of that finding have not been thoroughly studied—until now, when a Mount Sinai researcher has received a $2.5 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to address them.

Emily Gallagher, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Disease) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, received the Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) (R37) Award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the NIH, to study the role of high triglyceride levels in driving triple negative breast cancer growth and metastasis.

Despite significant advances in treatment, women are still dying from breast cancer, particularly the triple-negative type. More than 50 percent of women with triple negative breast cancer have elevated circulating triglycerides and these elevated levels are associated with reduced breast cancer survival. Further, obesity, diabetes, high carbohydrate diets, excess alcohol consumption, and thyroid disorders all contribute to high circulating triglyceride levels. The link between hypertriglyceridemia (HTG) and triple negative breast cancer is well described in epidemiology studies, but checking and treating triglyceride levels in women with triple negative breast cancers have not been part of standard clinical care.

The grant will allow Dr. Gallagher and her team to explore how human breast cancers take up triglycerides from the circulating blood in the form of very low density lipoproteins. Secondly, they will examine the importance of specific types of lipid—which were previously not known to exist in breast cancers—in triple negative breast cancer. Finally, they will explore therapeutic strategies to lower triglycerides, which if successful could readily be translated into clinical care to improve outcomes for women with HTG and triple negative breast cancer.

“I am grateful and thrilled to receive this grant from the NIH/NCI, which will help give us a better understanding of how elevated triglycerides contribute to triple negative breast cancer growth and metastasis—something that, mechanistically, hasn’t ever been looked into before,” said Dr. Gallagher, who is also Associate Program Director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Mount Sinai.

“In my oncoendocrinology clinical practice, I see many women who have high triglycerides and breast cancer, sometimes as a result of their breast cancer treatment,” she said. “My hope is that through this funding, we’ll be able to determine in preclinical models if starving triple negative cancer cells of these lipids can be exploited as a novel therapeutic strategy. Ultimately my goal is to improve outcomes for women living with triple negative breast cancer and high triglyceride levels.”

About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, over 400 outpatient practices, nearly 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time — discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals, receiving high "Honor Roll" status, and are highly ranked: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital among the country’s best in several pediatric specialties.

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