Chi-Chen Hong, PhD
2012-2013 BCRF Project:
Department of Cancer Prevention and Control
Roswell Park Cancer Institute
Buffalo, New York
Co-Investigator: Christine B. Ambrosone, PhD
, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY
Psychosocial factors such as stressful life events and perceived stress may play a role in the progression of breast cancer and may be mediated in part by effects on the anti-tumor immune system, angiogenesis, and tumor invasion. Among breast cancer patients, pre- and post-treatment immune function, particularly soon after surgery, may be important for tumor control by playing a role in eliminating residual disease and/or micrometastasis. Stressful events are well known to be immunosuppressive and have been linked to changes in immune function, although much less is known on how subjective psychosocial experiences relate to physiological parameters that may contribute to long-term disease prognosis in breast cancer patients.
Only a handful of studies to date have used a longitudinal approach to examine stress and/or mood on immune function. Building on their previous work on vitamin D and body immune functions in the development of breast cancer, Drs. Ambrosone and Hong undertook a new project in 2011-2012 to examine prospectively the relationships between a comprehensive set of psychosocial factors and signaling molecules affecting immune function, in a cohort of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, participating in the Women’s Health After Breast Cancer (ABC) Study at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
In 2012-2013, Drs. Ambrosone and Hong will continue their work to understand, in-depth, the roles of vitamin D and a number of biomarkers indicative of body immune functions in the development of breast cancer, particularly the type of aggressive breast cancer that is difficult to treat and leads to high mortality. Their study to date shows that two distinct types of immune response coupled with each other are associated with markedly lower risk of aggressive breast cancer. The research team has also observed interactions between immune biomarkers and vitamin D in relation to breast cancer. Based upon these results, they plan to examine the complex cross-talk among vitamin D, immune biomarkers, telomere length, and psychological stress. They will also continue enrolling and following-up patients in the Women’s Health ABC Study.
Mid-year Progress: In this funding period, Drs. Ambrosone and Hong advanced their work to understand relationships between psychosocial factors and biomarkers indicative of immune function. They showed that at the time of cancer diagnosis, prior to treatment, feelings of psychological distress and limitations in social activities due to emotional problems were associated with immune markers related to general immune suppression and promotion of tumor growth in 448 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. In contrast, those with higher levels of biomarkers indicative of a more robust anti-tumor immune response were less likely to report low levels of resilience or low levels of either mental or physical health. Drs. Ambrosone and Hong will extend these findings to prospectively examine how factors related to psychosocial adaptation impacts immune changes following treatment, and examine their interrelationships with vitamin D, circulating biomarkers responsive to stress, and telomere length. They have published two meeting abstracts and submitted one manuscript for publication since June.
Dr. Chi-Chen Hong received her doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Toronto in 2004, and completed postdoctoral training with Dr. Christine Ambrosone at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI). She joined the staff of RPCI in 2008 as an Assistant Member in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control within the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences.
Most of Dr. Hong's research is focused on breast cancer etiology, survivorship, and prognosis. Specifically, her interests are on the influence of lifestyle, genetic, and immune factors related to adiposity, diet, and hormonal exposures. She has oan ongoing prospective cohort study of early stage breast cancer patients to examine issues in breast cancer survivorship, and is co-principal investigator of a study which aims to determine if breast cancer prognosis is modified by diabetes management among breast cancer patients with type II diabetes. A main research focus is in the area of thermal dysregulation among breast cancer patients, which aims to examine potential relationships between body temperature, thermal discomfort experienced by women with breast cancer, the anti-tumor response, disease prognosis, and cytokine-driven sickness symptoms. She is currently funded to examine the role of a panel of cytokines in relation to body temperature and sickness symptoms among breast cancer patients.