Olivera Nesic-Taylor, PhD,
is studying the relationship between multiple sclerosis (MS) and breast cancer.
She is affiliated with the Texas Tech Paul Foster School of Medicine in El Paso,
Dr. Nesic-Taylor’s research
focuses on the following questions concerning MS and breast cancer:
Does MS decrease
or increase the risk for breast cancer?
treatments for MS affect the risk or symptoms of breast cancer?
treatments for breast cancer affect symptoms of MS?
What are the
next steps in researching the link between MS and breast cancer?
Dr. Nesic-Taylor discussed
these issues with members of the MS/Cancer Support Group. The self-help support
group is sponsored by the National MS Society and the American Cancer Society.
The incidence of MS in women
is two to three times higher than in men, and the incidence of breast cancer is
100 times higher in women. Therefore, the link probably involves sex hormones and/or
Genes associated with MS
(17q21.2, 17q22-q24) and breast cancer (17q21.31) are on the same chromosome in
close proximity, and may affect each other. The sex hormones estrogens/progesterone
and androgens have roles in both MS and breast cancer.
The average age for breast
cancer diagnosis is 61 years old and is most frequently diagnosed between the
ages of 55 to 64.
The average age of a MS diagnosis
is 37 years old, and the onset is most often between 30 and 37 years.
Consequently, in most cases MS will precede the onset of breast cancer.
Therefore, two of the key questions are whether MS (preceding breast cancer)
increases or decreases the risk for breast cancer and whether MS treatments
affect that risk.
Dr. Nesic-Taylor explained
that there is not enough data to determine if MS increases or decreases the
risk for breast cancer. The results from the few studies conducted are not
conclusive, and more investigation is required. However, research does show
that MS treatments alter the body’s immune response, which is known to have a
key role in cancer.
Anti-estrogen drugs are the
most often used therapies for the treatment of the more prevalent
estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. Of breast cancers, 70 percent are estrogen
Dr. Nesic-Taylor gave insight
to the questions: Is estrogen protective or harmful in patients with MS?
during stages associated with high estrogen levels, offers protection to MS
patients and to female test animals with MS.
contraceptive use among female MS patients has been shown to decrease the severity
of the disease course.
protect damaged nervous system.
Based on some studies
including studies done in Dr. Nesic-Taylor’s lab, Tamoxifen is beneficial in
various neurodegenerative conditions, including MS. Also, Tamoxifen is a
preventative breast cancer treatment in that it can prevent the development of
breast cancer in MS patients. Therefore, Tamoxifen may be all the more beneficial.
While helping people with MS, it may also prevent development of breast cancer.
However, that remains to be investigated further.
Dr. Nesic-Taylor reported
that currently no national database exists to collect information about MS.
Previously, the biggest national health interview survey was the US census bureau
collected data from 1978 and 1997 but no longer does.
Dr. Nesic-Taylor stated what
needs to be done:
epidemiological studies that investigate the risk for breast cancer in MS
effect of MS treatments, for example beta interferon, on the risk for breast
effect of Tamoxifen and other breast cancer treatments on MS symptoms.
Her current work includes epidemiological
study on the risk for breast cancer in MS patients using data collected by the
Texas Health Care Information Collection center for Health Statistics, in
collaboration with Dr. Zuber Mulla from the Texas Tech Paul Foster School of
Medicine. She also wants to assess disability scores in female MS patients who
also have breast cancer and have been treated with Tamoxifen or other
preventative treatment. She is seeking MS patients who are willing to
participate in this study.
Those interested in
participating can contact Dr. Olivera Nesic-Taylor at (915) 215-4357 or email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.