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December 2015


While advances in therapeutic approaches have resulted in improved survival rates for women diagnosed with breast cancer, subsets of these survivors develop persistent psychoneurological symptoms (fatigue, depression/anxiety, cognitive dysfunction) that compromise their quality of life. The biological basis for these persistent symptoms is unclear, but could reflect the acquisition of soma-wide chromosomal instability following the multiple biological/psychological exposures associated with the diagnosis/treatment of breast cancer. An essential first step toward testing this hypothesis is to determine if these cancer-related exposures are indeed associated with somatic chromosomal instability frequencies. Towards this end, we longitudinally studied 71 women (ages 23-71) with early-stage breast cancer and quantified their somatic chromosomal instability levels using a cytokinesis-blocked micronuclear/cytome assay at 4 timepoints: before chemotherapy (baseline); four weeks after chemotherapy initiation; six months after chemotherapy (at which time some women received radiotherapy); and one year following chemotherapy initiation. Overall, a significant change in instability frequencies was observed over time, with this change differing based on whether the women received radiotherapy (p=0.0052). Also, significantly higher instability values were observed one year after treatment initiation compared to baseline for the women who received: sequential taxotere/doxorubicin/cyclophosphamide (pp=0.014). Significant predictive associations for acquired micronuclear/cytome abnormality frequencies were also observed for race (p=0.0052), tumor type [luminal B tumors] (p=0.0053), and perceived stress levels (p=0.0129). The impact of perceived stress on micronuclear/cytome frequencies was detected across all visits, with the highest levels of stress being reported at baseline (p =0.0024). These findings suggest that the cancer-related exposome has an impact on both healthy somatic cells and tumor cells, and may lead to persistent chromosomal instability. In addition, stress was a significant predictor of chromosomal instability; thus, interventions that aim to reduce stress may reduce acquired soma-wide chromosomal instability for cancer survivors.


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