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Lisa Baumbach, MD

Lisa Baumbach, MD

The University of Miami's Lisa Baumbach and Maastricht University's Torik Ayoubi discuss how ethnicity-specific genetic changes may govern the risk of developing an aggressive form of breast cancer

Researchers at the University of Miami, led by Dr. Lisa Baumbach, have discovered hundreds of genetic differences between African-American, Hispanic, and Caucasian breast cancer patients that may account for an increased incidence of a particularly aggressive form of the cancer in African-American women. The discovery may pave the way for improved breast cancer treatments and prognoses based on ethnicity.

Using paraffin-embedded tissue has opened up an unbelievable gold mine not only for me, but for many other researchers in the field.

Baumbach and her team used the Almac Breast Cancer DSA™ research tool for their study. The Almac microarray, based on Affymetrix GeneChip® technology, includes 60,000 transcripts and is designed specifically to investigate gene expression in breast cancer. Baumbach's team identified 600 transcripts that are differentially expressed among the eight Caucasian, 10 African-American, and 10 Hispanic women in its initial sample.

A unique aspect of this study is that the team used formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue samples. In the past, FFPE tissues have been difficult to use because RNA extracted from these samples is usually degraded, but new technology has enabled researchers to obtain high-quality expression data from these tissues.

"Using paraffin-embedded tissue has opened up an unbelievable gold mine, not only for me, but for many other researchers in the field," said Baumbach, an associate professor at the University of Miami.

Baumbach's group found that breast tissue samples from different ethnicities include groups of differentially expressed genes. Gene expression in breast tissue from African-American women differs from that in Caucasian and Hispanic women, just as gene expression in Hispanic women differs from both African-American and Caucasian women.

In their latest study, Baumbach and her team focused on women with the "triple-negative" form of breast cancer.

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