Pathologic and molecular investigations of the ABC breast cancer ‘cluster’

Start Year: 2007
Finish Year: 2008
Chief Investigator: Professor Beth Newman
Grant Type: Novel Concept Awards
Institution: Queensland University of Technology

Alternative Title: Biology of the ABC Breast Cancer Cluster

Recently, a panel of scientists acknowledged that breast cancers that had occurred among employees of the ABC Studio (Toowong, QLD) constitute a cancer cluster because the odds that these cancers had occurred by chance was less than one in a million. Subsequently, all employees were moved to new location. However, there is no guarantee the risk has been removed because the cause of the breast cancers is not known.

The same panel of scientists studied a range of personal characteristics and workplace factors and concluded that none of the known risk factors or measured exposures could explain the development of breast cancer in these women. To date, no one has studied the biology of the tumours themselves.  If the cluster of cancers is found to share unusual biologic characteristics, this may help clarify the nature of the cancer cluster and even more importantly, may implicate the cause of the cancers.

This will be accomplished by detailed molecular studies of the tumour tissues to see if the various tumours share common characteristics. If Professor Newman succeeds in identifying a common molecular profile, it may provide leads for further investigation to uncover the cause of the cluster. Ultimately, this might also advance our understanding of a new risk factor for breast cancer that affects younger women.