A surprising link between the energetics of ovariectomy-induced weight gain and mammary tumor progression in obese rats

Paul S. MacLean, Erin D. Giles, Ginger C. Johnson, Shauntae M. McDaniel, Brooke K. Fleming-Elder, Kaite A. Gilman, Anna G. Andrianakos, Matthew R. Jackman, Kenneth R. Shroyer, Pepper J. Schedin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Obesity increases the risk for postmenopausal breast cancer. We have modeled this metabolic context using female Wistar rats that differ in their polygenic predisposition for obesity under conditions of high-fat feeding and limited physical activity. At 52 days of age, rats were injected with 1-methyl-1-nitrosourea (MNU, 50 mg/kg) and placed in an obesogenic environment. At 19 weeks of age, the rats were separated into lean, mid-weight, and obese rats, based upon their weight gained during this time. The rats were ovariectomized (OVX) at ∼24 weeks of age and the change in tumor multiplicity and burden, weight gain, energy intake, tumor estrogen receptor (ER) status, and humoral metabolite and cytokine profiles were examined. The survival and growth of tumors increased in obese rats in response to OVX. OVX induced a high rate of weight gain during post-OVX weeks 1-3, compared to SHAM-operated controls. During this time, feed efficiency (mg gain/kcal intake) was lower in obese rats, and this reduced storage efficiency of ingested fuels predicted the OVX-induced changes in tumor multiplicity (r = 0.64, P < 0.001) and burden (r = 0.57, P <0.001). Tumors from obese rats contained more cells that expressed ERα, and post-OVX plasma from rats with the lowest feed efficiency had lower interleukin (IL)-2 and IL-4 levels. Our observations suggest a novel link between obesity and mammary tumor promotion that involves impaired fuel metabolism during OVX-induced weight gain. The metabolically inflexible state of obesity and its inability to appropriately respond to the OVX-induced energy imbalance provides a plausible explanation for this relationship and the emergence of obesity's impact on breast cancer risk after menopause.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)696-703
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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