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Kathleen F. Arcaro


Research areas include developing tools for early detection of breast cancer, discovery of molecular biomarkers for individual assessment of breast cancer risk, defining the early molecular events in BRCA-breast cancer, and developing strategies to reduce breast cancer risk.

Current Research

Accurate risk assessment and early detection of breast cancer can greatly reduce disease occurrence and related mortality through tailored preventive strategies and early treatment. We use breast milk as a model system for studying breast cancer risk and etiology. Breast milk provides a noninvasive method of obtaining breast tissue, as an ounce of milk can contain millions of cells including sloughed epithelial cells from the lining of the glands. These exfoliated epithelial cells are extremely useful in assessing somatic changes, both the genetic mutations and epigenetic alterations, associated with breast cancer risk. We have focused on epigenetic biomarkers of risk, in particular DNA methylation, because aberrant DNA methylation occurs early in the etiology of breast cancer and is potentially reversible with diet and/or drugs. We currently are conducting a randomized clinical trial to determine the extent to which increased consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces breast inflammation and modifies the breast DNA methylation profile in a manner consistent with reduced breast cancer risk. In other studies we are defining the pre-symptomatic profile of BRCA- breast cancer through examination of sloughed epithelial cells from the milk of women with a germline pathogenic mutation in the BRCA gene. 

Learn more at www.vasci.umass.edu/research-faculty/kathleen-f-arcaro

Academic Background

  • BS Douglas College, 1980
  • PhD Rutgers University, 1986
  • NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship, University at Albany, 1987 – 1990
Williams KE, Jawale RM, Schneider SS, Otis CN, Pentecost BT, Arcaro KF. DNA methylation in breast cancers: Differences based on estrogen receptor status and recurrence. J Cell Biochem. 2019; 120(1):738-755.
Essa AR, Browne EP, Punska EC, Perkins K, Boudreau E, Wiggins H, Anderton DL, Sibeko L, Sturgeon SR, Arcaro KF. Dietary Intervention to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Breastfeeding Women: A Pilot Randomized Trial Measuring Inflammatory Markers in Breast Milk. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2018; 118(12):2287-2295.
Murphy J, Pfeiffer RM, Lynn BCD, Caballero AI, Browne EP, Punska EC, Yang HP, Falk RT, Anderton DL, Gierach GL, Arcaro KF, Sherman ME. Pro-inflammatory cytokines and growth factors in human milk: an exploratory analysis of racial differences to inform breast cancer etiology. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2018; 172(1):209-219.
Zimmers SM, Browne EP, Williams KE, Jawale RM, Otis CN, Schneider SS, Arcaro KF. TROP2 methylation and expression in tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer. Cancer Cell Int. 2018; 18:94.
Murphy J, Sherman ME, Browne EP, Caballero AI, Punska EC, Pfeiffer RM, Yang HP, Lee M, Yang H, Gierach GL, Arcaro KF. Potential of breastmilk analysis to inform early events in breast carcinogenesis: rationale and considerations. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2016; 157(1):13-22. doi: 10.1007/s10549-016-3796-x.
Fitzgerald LM, Browne EP, Christie KD, Punska EC, Simmons LO, Williams KE, Pentecost BT, M Jawale R, Otis CN, Arcaro KF. ELF5 and DOK7 regulation in anti-estrogen treated cells and tumors. Cancer Cell Int. 2016; 16:8.
Contact Info

Department of Veterinary & Animal Sciences
LSL N529
240 Thatcher Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9292

(413) 577-1823