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CRF Scholar Kathleen Arcaro Receives Award from Avon Foundation for Research on Women’s Health Issue

The Center for Research on Families (CRF) is pleased to announce that Kathleen Arcaro, associate professor of environmental toxicology and Family Research Scholar (2012-2013), along with collaborator Allen Tsang at Wake Forest University, have been awarded $143,998 for the first year of a two-year grant from the Avon Foundation for Women. Her project is entitled, “Chlamydia- Induced DNA Methylation Changes in the Breast Tissue of Healthy Women.” This is the first study to look at DNA methylation in relation to Chlamydia infection in breast tissue.

This grant was prepared while Kathleen Arcaro was a Family Research Scholar through CRF. 

Working with CRF as a Family Research Scholar was fantastic. I looked forward to our weekly discussions and updates on the proposals we were all writing.  I found the opinions and advice of colleagues outside of my research area – the fellow scholars and support staff - extremely helpful in preparing my proposal and making sure that I conveyed the importance of my research to a broader audience.  It was great experience with lasting rewards.’ –Kathleen Arcaro

Arcaro’s research has investigated ways to reduce breast cancer morbidity and associated mortality. For this project, Arcaro and Tsang want to understand how Chlamydia infection increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer and provide preliminary data on how women may reduce this risk. While there is clinical significance of Chlamydia infection with the risk in the development of other cancers, research around these pathogens in breast cancer development has not previously been investigated in animal models or humans.

Arcaro and Tsang will examine the entire process, from Chlamydia infection attachment and entry to healthy cells and the cell changes following extrusion/exit. To do this, the researchers will look at human non-tumorigenic breast cell lines, breast milk cell samples, and breast cancer and reduction mammoplasty tissue specimens, to determine the extent to which infection with Chlamydia alters DNA methylation and protein expression. Methylation is a change in the DNA of cells that silences gene expression, so tumor-suppressing proteins are not produced, which makes cancer more likely to occur. However, methylation is reversible, so early detection increases treatment options and is a key in preventing cancer. Through this they hope to determine the extent to which cells retain Chlamydia-induced changes and to test whether treatment of Chlamydia infected breast cells with a demethylating drug can restore a normal  DNA methylation profile.  

More about Kathleen Arcaro can be found HERE.

CRF Research Scholar opportunities can be found HERE

 

CRF is an interdisciplinary research center of the College of Natural Sciences and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and has affiliated faculty from departments across campus.  For more information on the Family Research Scholars Program or the Center for Research on Families, please contact:  wendy@sbs.umass.edu or (413) 545-3593.