Dr. Wellberg’s research focuses on the link between obesity and breast cancer. Obese women have a higher risk of breast cancer, but relatively few studies have explored the effect of breast cancer treatment on obesity. Nearly 75% of the women who are diagnosed with breast cancer will develop estrogen receptor (ER) positive tumors and will receive a category of treatments called “endocrine therapy.” Unfortunately, breast cancer survivors have a uniquely high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and some types of endocrine therapy are known to promote metabolic disease.
Dr. Wellberg is using a mouse model to study how obesity and metabolic disease impact the breast cancer patient’s response to therapy. Her studies revealed detrimental effects of endocrine therapy on the metabolism of obese, but not lean mice. Specifically, endocrine therapy promoted abundant weight and fat gain in obese mice and also increased circulating insulin levels. Dr. Wellberg will focus on the long-term effects of two specific types of breast cancer treatments and work to define the role of obesity in the metabolic response to breast cancer endocrine therapy.