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UNC Lineberger’s Victoria Bae-Jump, MD, PhD, was recently awarded grant funding of more than $800,000 to further her research on the underlying biological factors that may influence the development and mortality of endometrial cancer in both Caucasian and African-American women.

UNC Lineberger’s Victoria Bae Jump, MD, PhD.

Bae-Jump, a gynecologic oncologist and associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, received a V Foundation Translational Award to fund her project “Metabolic and Molecular Biomarkers of Metformin Response in Obesity-driven Endometrial Cancer.” She and her team will address unanswered questions surrounding the relationship of biological differences in obese African-American and Caucasian women to the disparate impact of endometrial cancer.

African-American women have not only a higher mortality rate from endometrial cancer than Caucasian women, but also higher rates of obesity and diabetes. Bae-Jump’s laboratory has already shown the correlation between obesity and the development of endometrial cancer, as well as the potential of drugs that target metabolism in diminishing this kind of cancer. However, it is unknown if factors such as obesity and diabetes impact the underlying biology of these two groups of women in different ways, possibly contributing to this health disparity.

“With the V Foundation Translational Award to focus on cancer disparities, we can begin to address this unanswered question by comparing the metabolic and molecular characteristics of obese and non-obese, African-American and Caucasian women with endometrial cancer,” she said.

A grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute for Cancer will enable Bae-Jump, with her collaborators Temitope Keku, PhD, research professor in the UNC School of Medicine Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and Wendy Brewster, MD, PhD, director of the UNC Center for Women’s Health Research and a professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, to continue their work on the study, “Inter-Relationship Between Microbiota Diversity, Obesity and Race in Endometrial Cancer,” which is exploring whether the differing uterine microbiomes in African-American and Caucasian women is another underlying factor in to the racial disparities in endometrial cancer.

“Our preliminary work in both mice and women supports a potential critical link between obesity, race, the microbiome and endometrial cancer,” said Bae-Jump. “Our hypothesis is that the endometrial cancer microbiota exists, and that it differs by obesity and race status, and it contributes to the pathogenesis of this kind of cancer.”

Bae-Jump believes that if it is determined that the microbiota differs according to obesity and ethnicity, further research could lead to a screening approach to identify women with bacteria that puts them at a higher risk for endometrial cancer, as well as risk-reduction strategies for women determined to be at risk.

“We must work towards understanding the biology behind this staggering racial disparity which will ultimately lead to improving outcomes for African American women faced with endometrial cancer,” she said.