Seeking to explain serious side effect of breast cancer | Danish Diabetes and Endocrine Academy
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Seeking to explain serious side effect of breast cancer

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Metabolic disorders increase the risk of breast cancer returning, and they also double mortality. A young researcher is now in search of explanations, prevention and treatment.

Breast cancer patients often experience serious side effects after treatment. Metabolic disorders are one of them, and they not only increase the risk of the breast cancer returning; they also double mortality. Unfortunately, researchers do not yet know why this happens, so treatment options are poor, but now there is a possibility of changing that. Mona Ali MSc (Biochemistry) has, in any case, received a grant from the Danish Diabetes Academy to learn more about what is going on.

‘My theory is that changes occur in the skeletal muscles that absorb most of the glucose in people, and that it is these changes that cause insulin resistance’, she says.

Mona Ali is confident that the results of the study will clarify potential causes of metabolic disorders in patients with breast cancer and breast cancer survivors, and that this will pave the way for new prevention and treatment options.

A link between two research centres

Thirty-year-old Mona Ali will conduct her PhD study at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, and her principal supervisor will be Associate Professor Lykke Sylow PhD.
She already has several agreements with other researchers who will supervise her during the project. One of them is Research Director Professor Marja Jäättelä of the Danish Cancer Society’s Cell Death and Metabolism Unit; she and Lykke Sylow both see great opportunities in the prospect of Mona Ali acting as a link between the two research centres.

‘We will have a fantastic opportunity to combine our expertise in cancer cell biology with theirs in muscle metabolism and generate exciting synergy between the two areas’, says Marja Jäättelä.

Mona Ali will be with Professor Marja Jäättelä for a spell, and she will travel to the University of Melbourne for six months to visit Senior Research Fellow Benjamin L. Parker, with whom she is already collaborating on the analysis of skeletal muscles from breast cancer survivors. Mona Ali will also have a collaboration with Professor Peter Schwarz of the Medical Endocrinology Clinic, Centre for Cancer and Organ Diseases, Rigshospitalet.

Three main goals

Mona Ali has set three main goals for her PhD project:
1) to investigate the relationship between insulin resistance in skeletal muscle and breast cancer-related metabolic disorders;
2) to identify molecular changes in skeletal muscle caused by breast cancer and/or chemotherapy;
3) to determine the molecular mechanisms in the skeletal musculature that may cause breast cancer-associated insulin resistance and metabolic perturbations.


Name and title: Mona Ali MSc, b. 1990
Awarded DKK 1.1 million by the Danish Diabetes Academy.

Project title: Determining the impact of breast cancer on skeletal muscle molecular regulation and insulin sensitivity.
Research centre: Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen
Principal supervisor: Associate Professor Lykke Sylow PhD
Tel: +45 9330 3030


Contact Danish Diabetes Academy
Tore Christiansen, Managing Director
Tel: +45 2964 6764