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Folate taken in pregnancy may boost breast cancer risk: Grant will fund research

July 2013

Dr. Joanne KotsopoulosPregnant women are typically counselled to take supplemental folate. But according to research being conducted at Women’s College Research Institute, high folate levels may increase breast cancer risk in women with a genetic predisposition due to a BRCA genetic mutation. With the help of an innovative grant will enable Women’s College researchers to study the role of folate in breast cancer incidence among high-risk women.

“The grant will support our study to evaluate whether folate may in fact increase breast cancer risk in BRCA mutation carriers,” says Dr. Joanne Kotsopoulos, a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute and an assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto.

Kotsopoulos’s research program focuses on trying to identify dietary and lifestyle factors that may influence the risk of breast or ovarian cancer among women at a high risk of developing these cancers due to an inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. The $90,000 grant was awarded by the Canadian Gene Cure Foundation (CGCF), in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) through its Institute of Genetics. Eligible applicants must be nominated by a Champion of Genetics senior scientist who has been appointed by the CGCF Board of Directors, like Dr. Steven Narod, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer at Women’s College Research Institute who nominated Kotsopoulos.

“Dr. Kotsopoulos led the first animal studies concerning the effect of folate depletion and folic acid supplementation on mammary tumour development and progression,” says Narod. “Her work is considered seminal in the field of folate and breast cancer risk.”

As grants to support health research become increasingly limited and competitive, early and mid-career scientists are often at a disadvantage when pursuing funding. Yet the advancement of these scientists is integral to cultivate a growing knowledge economy in Canada, fed by important international scientific contributions.

“CGCF’s grant structure strongly supports team-building and advancement through mentorship,” says Kotsopoulos. “This is incredibly valuable because it allows us to build capacity in our research programs so that our work ultimately has a greater impact across Canada and beyond.”

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