Supraja Narasimhan

BU School of Medicine

Art beCAUSE presents $12,500 to BU School of Medicine PhD. Candidate, Supraja Narasimhan. She also will be co-authoring a manuscript entitled “The role of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor in breast epithelial cell growth and invasion.”

The age-adjusted incidence of breast cancer in the U.S. increased ~1% per year between 1940 and 1990 such that breast cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women aged 20 to 59. A substantial and growing body of evidence indicates that exposure to certain environmental chemicals contributes to the development of breast cancer. For several years our laboratory has focused on the role of common air pollutants and food contaminants in the development and progression of breast cancer. We have shown that hydrocarbons, commonly found in ambient air as a consequence of the burning of fossil fuels or any other carbon source, preferentially induce breast cancers in laboratory animals. The ability of these environmental hydrocarbons to turn normal breast cells into tumors is dependent on a specific receptor within breast cells which recognizes and binds a variety of ubiquitous environmental hydrocarbons (i.e., the aryl hydrocarbon receptor). Once bound by environmental pollutants, this hydrocarbon receptor delivers signals to the cells which, we hypothesize, increase cell growth, increase cell survival, and drive progression of relatively treatable breast tumors into lethal metastatic breast cancers. The work supported by Art beCAUSE is designed to test this hypothesis.