Breast Cancer Therapy Associated with Reduced Risk of Neurodegenerative Disease in Women

TUCSON, Ariz. – Findings from an investigative study at the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at the University of Arizona Health Sciences have shown that, for women with breast cancer, exposure to hormone-modulating therapies was associated with a significant decrease in the number of women who received a diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease – more specifically Alzheimer’s disease.

A breast cancer cell photographed by a scanning electron microscope, as illustrated here, can show how cells respond in changing environments and can show mapping distribution of binding sites of hormones and other biological molecules. (Image: Bruce Wetzel and Harry Schaefer/National Cancer Institute)The center’s investigation, which was published JAMA Network Open this past spring, surveyed medical insurance claims from private-payer and Medicare data to identify premenopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal patients who had been diagnosed with breast cancer to determine whether those women receiving hormone-modulating therapies had a different risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease.

“This retrospective cohort study provides a clear message: breast cancer therapies do not increase the risk of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Critically, these therapies can actually reduce the risk of developing these diseases, ” said Center Director Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD. “As life expectancies after treatment increase for breast cancer patients, this study further illustrates the importance of evaluating personalized treatment options that may result in a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD, director, Center for Innovation in Brain Science, University of Arizona Health SciencesAccording 2019 statistics from, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women and 12.8% of women (1 in 8) will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. It is predicted the number of women living with breast cancer and at risk for other diseases will escalate, in the aging population especially. At the same time, women are at a two-fold greater lifetime risk than men for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The study’s lead author, Gregory Branigan, a predoctoral fellow, is part of the UArizona MD/PhD Program, which offers dual training in both medicine and biomedical research, and is conducting his doctoral research in Dr. Brinton’s laboratory. Collaborators include Kathleen Rodgers, PhD, Maira Soto, PhD, and noted breast cancer surgeon Leigh Neumayer, MD, former surgery department head at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson now at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville.

Dr. Brinton also is a UArizona professor in the Department of Neurology and Pharmacology in the College of Medicine – Tucson and Department of Psychology in the UArizona College of Science.

Greg Branigan, UArizona doctoral studentThe UArizona Center for Innovation in Brain Science continues to pursue research through an innovative “all brains on deck” approach, in order to reduce the global burden of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

This study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging: Perimenopause in Brain Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease (P01AG026572); Translational Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias – TRADD (T32AG061897); and Aging and Estrogenic Control of the Bioenergetic System in Brain (R37AG053589); and funding from the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement to Dr. Brinton’s research.

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NOTE: Images available here –

About the Center for Innovation in Brain Science
The Center for Innovation in Brain Science (CIBS) at the University of Arizona is addressing the challenge that, in the 21st century, there is not a single cure for a neurodegenerative disease. The CIBS team is focused on four age-associated neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). With expertise spanning discovery, translational, regulatory and clinical science, CIBS is shifting the research paradigm as one of the nation’s leading research centers, pioneering patient-inspired, data-driven approaches to find cures for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The CIBS mission is to create innovations in brain science of the future for those who need a cure today. Find out more about how CIBS is achieving the vision of vibrant brains that last a lifetime. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter).

About the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is shaping the future of medicine through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research and advancements in patient care in Arizona and beyond. Founded in 1967, the college boasts more than 50 years of innovation, ranking among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care. Through the university's partnership with Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, the college is leading the way in academic medicine. For more information, visit (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn).

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

Release Date: 
08/24/2020 - 6:24am
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