The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Kathleen F. Arcaro


My research areas are using breast milk to discover molecular biomarkers that: accurately predict breast cancer risk, and can be used to detect early signs of breast cancer years before the disease is clinically apparent.

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. Accordingly, a related project is assessing the effects of a diet intervention on reducing molecular biomarkers in breast tissue that are associated with increased breast cancer risk. A second major project focuses on elucidating mechanisms underlying the drug resistance (Tamoxifien and other anti-hormone treatments) in breast cancer.

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. Breast milk provides a noninvasive method of obtaining breast tissue, as an ounce of milk can contain millions of cells including exfoliated epithelial cells from the lining of the glands that can be used for personal risk assessment and early detection. Breast milk also provides an ideal tissue for use in proteomic analyses associated with risk assessment and for monitoring exposure to pollutants, both of which we do through numerous collaborations. In addition to studying human milk, we use several drug-resistant cell culture models and human tissue (blood, reduction mammoplasty and tumor) to investigate the etiology of breast cancer.

Learn more at

Academic Background

  • PhD Rutgers University
Williams KE, Anderton DL, Lee MP, Pentecost BT, Arcaro KF. High-density array analysis of DNA methylation in Tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cell lines. Epigenetics. 2014; 9(2):297-07.
Zimmers SM, Browne EP, O'Keefe PW, Anderton DL, Kramer L, Reckhow DA, Arcaro KF. Determination of free Bisphenol A (BPA) concentrations in breast milk of U.S. women using a sensitive LC/MS/MS method. Chemosphere. 2014; 104:237-43.
Fagan-Solis KD, Pentecost BT, Gozgit JM, Bentley BA, Marconi SM, Otis CN, Anderton DL, Schneider SS, Arcaro KF. SKP2 overexpression is associated with increased serine 10 phosphorylation of p27 (pSer10p27) in triple-negative breast cancer. J Cell Physiol. 2014; 229(9):1160-9.
Schneider SS, Aslebagh R, Wetie AG, Sturgeon SR, Darie CC, Arcaro KF. Using breast milk to assess breast cancer risk: the role of mass spectrometry-based proteomics. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014; 806:399-408.
Sturgeon SR, Arcaro KF, Johnson MA, Balasubramanian R, Zorn M, Jerry DJ, Schneider SS. DNA methylation in paired breast epithelial and white blood cells from women undergoing reduction mammoplasty. Anticancer Res. 2014; 34(6):2985-90.
Fagan-Solis KD, Schneider SS, Pentecost BT, Bentley BA, Otis CN, Gierthy JF, Arcaro KF. The RhoA pathway mediates MMP-2 and MMP-9-independent invasive behavior in a triple-negative breast cancer cell line. J Cell Biochem. 2013; 114(6):1385-94.
Arcaro KF, Browne EP, Qin W, Zhang K, Anderton DL, Sauter ER. Differential expression of cancer-related proteins in paired breast milk samples from women with breast cancer. J Hum Lact. 2012; 28(4):543-6.
Contact Info

Department of Veterinary & Animal Sciences
LSL N225
240 Thatcher Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9292

(413) 577-1823