Superfund Research Program
BU SRP Researchers Team Up with Other Scientists to Study Breast Cancer and the Environment
Five renowned researchers, led by Boston University Superfund Research Program (BU SRP) director David Sherr, Ph.D., are joining forces to better understand the man-made chemicals that contribute to breast cancer, according to the Boston Globe. The researchers were awarded a three-year, $5 million grant from ART beCAUSE, a breast cancer foundation, to examine whether commonly found chemicals are contributing to high nationwide rates of breast cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute , breast cancer will be the second-most-diagnosed and the third-deadliest form of cancer in 2014. According to the American Cancer Society , more than 90 percent of breast cancer cases cannot be linked to a hereditary cause.
“I think what we’re going to be doing is adding the weight of evidence that environmental chemicals contribute significantly to [breast] cancer, more than most people expect,” Sherr told The Boston Globe.
The team also includes BU SRP Bioinformatics Core co-leader Stefano Monti, Ph.D.
Sherr and Monti are collaborating with Gail Sonenshein, Ph.D., and Charlotte Kuperwasser, Ph.D., of Tufts University School of Medicine, and David C. Seldin, M.D., Ph.D., of the Boston University School of Medicine on the project.
Visit The Boston Globe for more on the collaborative research.
Contaminated Water Linked to Pregnancy Complications, BU SRP Study Finds
Prenatal exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE) in drinking water may increase the risk of stillbirth and placental abruption, a complication in pregnancy, according to a new study led by Boston University Superfund Research Program (BU SRP) researcher Ann Aschengrau, Ph.D.
The study , published in the journal Environmental Health, compared 1,091 PCE-exposed pregnancies and 1,019 unexposed pregnancies among 1,766 women in Cape Cod, MA, where water was contaminated between the late 1960s and early 1980s by the installation of vinyl-lined asbestos cement pipes. Pipes with vinyl lining, containing PCE, were installed to correct taste and odor problems found in the previous pipes. While the PCE in the lining was expected to evaporate during the pipe installation, testing in 1980 revealed large amounts of PCE in the drinking water supplied by the pipes. PCE exposure was estimated using water-distribution system modeling software. Data on pregnancy complications were self-reported by mothers.
Of the more than 2,000 pregnancies during the study period, 9 percent were complicated by pregnancy disorders associated with placental dysfunction. Pregnancies among women with high PCE exposure had 2.38 times the risk of stillbirth and 1.35 times the risk of placental abruption, compared to unexposed pregnancies. Also, the study found an elevated risk of vaginal bleeding in pregnancies where women had PCE exposure greater than or equal to the sample median.
Lead researcher Aschengrau, professor of epidemiology at the BU School of Public Health, said the study findings support a small body of prior research indicating that PCE exposure may impact placental function and fetal growth. However, further investigation of related disorders is needed, she said.
"We need to have a better understanding of the impact of this common drinking water contaminant on all aspects of pregnancy," said Aschengrau, who has led numerous prior studies on the health effects of PCE.
Researchers used data from the Cape Cod Family Health Study, a population-based retrospective study designed to examine the influence of prenatal exposure to PCE-contaminated drinking water on multiple outcomes during pregnancy and childhood. Women were considered eligible for the parent cohort if they gave birth to at least one child between 1969 and 1983 and were living in one of eight Cape Cod towns with some contaminated pipes at the time of the child's birth.
The full study is available on the Environmental Health journal website.
SRP Researchers Receive Awards at EMGS
Superfund Research Program (SRP) staff, grantees, and students were well represented and received a number of awards at the Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society (EMGS) Annual Meeting September 13-17 in Orlando, FL. The meeting provided a broad scientific forum for basic and applied researchers to share current scientific advances and integrate knowledge on detection and characterization of DNA damage from exposures in the environment, the molecular mechanisms of DNA repair processes that respond to such damage, and the mechanisms of heritable changes that occur when damage persists. The meeting also focused on the genomic and epigenomic interaction with environmental factors and application of this knowledge to assess the risks for adverse health consequences.
"The meeting was a great way to coordinate with SRP grantees and learn more about the interesting research they are doing," said NIEHS Health Scientist Administrator Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., who attended the meeting. "It also serves as an excellent forum to catch up on the most recent research in the field related to integrating environmental, genomic, and health research."
SRP grantees received several awards at the meeting. University of California, Berkeley researcher and Center Director Martyn Smith, Ph.D., won the prestigious Alexander Hollaender Award from the EMGS for his contributions to the field of environmental toxicology. Vyom Sharma, a student at the University of North Carolina SRP Center, won a 2014 EMGS Student and New Investigator Travel Award. Oregon State University SRP postdoctoral trainee Tod Harper, Ph.D., won second place in the New Investigator Poster Presentation category for his poster on the analysis of dibenzo[def,p]chrysene DNA adduct formation in a transplacental chemoprevention model.
The EMGS mission is to foster scientific research and education on the causes and mechanistic bases of DNA damage and repair, mutagenesis, heritable effects, epigenetic alterations in genome function, and their relevance to disease and to promote the application and communication of this knowledge to genetic toxicology testing, risk assessment, and regulatory policymaking to protect human health and the environment. For more on EMGS and the Annual Meeting, visit the EMGS website .